One Question Lies Behind All 17 Of Obama's Mass Shooting Speeches
The worst mass shooting in US history occurred on Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In total, 49 people were killed and 53 injured.
In the wake of this horrific tragedy, President Obama delivered yet another speech on another mass shooting in the US. Throughout his presidency, he's addressed mass shootings in various ways at least 17 times.
During the president's statement on the Orlando shooting, it was clear the consistency with which he speaks on these tragedies has taken a toll on him. He stated,
Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well...
It's not exactly a secret the US has a problem with gun violence.
But, in spite of the thousands of gun deaths in the US each year, the issue of gun control remains controversial and divisive. Meanwhile, Congress has consistently failed to address gun violence in a meaningful way.
President Obama's statements on mass shootings definitely evolved over time. In the vast majority of his responses to these awful tragedies, he seems to be asking the same question over and over: Why aren't we doing anything about this?
Binghamton shooting: April 3, 2009
"Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence in Binghamton, NY, today."
In the wake of a shooting at the American Civic Association immigration center in Binghamton, New York, the president released this statement,
Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence in Binghamton, NY today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of Binghamton. We don't yet know all the facts, but my administration is actively monitoring the situation and the Vice President is in touch with Governor Paterson and local officials to track developments.
During an emotional speech on gun control years later, in January 2016, the president once again referenced the shooting. He stated,
Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. It wasn't the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last. Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. Newtown. The Navy Yard. Santa Barbara. Charleston. San Bernardino. Too many.
First Fort Hood shooting: November 5, 2009
"A number of American soldiers have been killed ... It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas."
Tucson congressional event shooting: January 8, 2011
"We are still assembling all the facts, but we know that Representative Giffords was one of the victims."
Aurora movie theater shooting: July 20, 2012
"We may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this."
Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting: August 5, 2012
"We mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship."
Following the shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the president released this statement,
Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.
He also addressed the shooting at a signing ceremony in the Oval Office on August 6, 2012. He stated,
I hope and pray that I don't have to come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as President, I can't guarantee that. And that's terrible to say. And it can change.
Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting: December 14, 2012
"The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old."
Navy Yard shooting: September 16, 2013
"We are confronting yet another mass shooting."
Second Fort Hood shooting: April 2, 2014
"We're heartbroken that something like this might have happened again."
Kansas Jewish Community Center shooting: April 13, 2014
"No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray."
Isla Vista shooting: May 23, 2014
"The country has to do some soul searching about this."
Several weeks after the shooting near UC Santa Barbara, the president offered some very strong words on the incident during a Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr.
The president stated,
Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There's no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this. Now, we have a different tradition. We have a Second Amendment. We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights. But the idea that, for example, we couldn't even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you're going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can't just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon -- it makes no sense. And I don't know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara. And as a father myself, I just could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out -- why aren't we doing something about this?
Chapel Hill shooting: February 10, 2015
"No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like or how they worship."
President Obama denounced the killing of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as "brutal and outrageous." Several months later, he spoke of the shooting during a dinner at the White House.
Chattanooga recruiting center shooting: July 16, 2015
"It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion."
Charleston church shooting: June 17, 2015
"The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history."
Roseburg community college shooting: October 1, 2015
"Our thoughts and prayers are not enough ... It does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America."
San Bernardino community center shooting: December 2, 2015
"We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country."
The president first addressed the shooting during an interview with CBS, and offered a more formal response several days later. He stated,
Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.