In familiar ritual, Obama consoles victims in Oregon mass shooting
President Barack Obama, in a ritual that has become both familiar and frustrating to him, arrived in Oregon on Friday to console victims and affected families of a community college shooting that once again sparked a push for U.S. gun reform.
The president, a Democrat who tried but failed to tighten firearms laws after previous mass shootings, arrived in a community where support for gun rights remains strong despite the massacre that left nine victims dead in the deadliest massacre on U.S. soil in two years.
Obama angrily denounced the killings as a symptom of a political choice by U.S. lawmakers to bow to pressure from the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group instead of reforming gun laws.
“I will politicize it, because our inaction is a political decision that we are making,” he said at a White House news conference last week.
Obama has made regular trips to funerals and memorial services for victims of mass shootings during the past seven years as president. He has said the December 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut was his toughest day as president.
He was not scheduled to make public remarks during his short stop in Roseburg, planning to meet privately with the families of the victims.
About 250 people gathered in Roseburg, some driving hours to get there, to protest his visit.
“The way things played out with Sandy Hook and the president parading those families across the country to take away my gun rights – that is why I’m here,” said Jason Harju, 40, who was wearing a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun on his belt and a sweatshirt that said “OREGUN.”
Obama has tasked White House lawyers and advisers to look for new ways he could use his executive powers to enforce existing gun regulations.
One of those options is a regulatory change to require more dealers to get a license to sell guns, which would lead to more background checks on buyers – an action that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she would take if elected in November 2016.
The White House had drafted a proposal on that issue in 2013, but was concerned it could be challenged in court and would be hard to enforce.
But officials are now hopeful that they can find a way to advance the plan, a White House official said on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)