Emotions are running high in Roseburg, Oregon, following a college campus gun attack which claimed the lives of at least ten people, including the shooter.
The incident at Umpqua Community College (UCC) has once more brought the issue of gun control to the forefront of people’s minds.
In 2015 alone, there have been 294 mass shootings in the US. These are defined as four or more people being shot, but not necessarily killed.
President Barack Obama said people had “become numb” to the frequency of the attacks, while the response of gun legislation opponents had become “routine.”
“This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction,” he said from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, named after a man wounded in a gun attack.
Victoria Van Buren, a local girl whose friends were among the seven injured told the media she thought the incident highlighted the need for more guns in the area.
“If the United States is going to take out of this that we should have gun laws and guns should be taken away, in fact, I think there should be more guns in the area and that everybody should be protected and know how to use them and protect themselves, because this could have very easily been avoided,” she told reporters.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has yet to make a formal statement about the shootings. However, speaking following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA’s Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre said:
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”
Similarly, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin has also been vocal in his opposition to tighter gun control.
In 2013, he wrote to Vice President Joe Biden to say that he and his work force would not enforce new gun control restrictions, claiming they offended “the constitutional rights of my citizens.”
Long an advocate of tighter gun control, Obama called on opponents of tighter firearms laws to reconsider their views.
“(There is) a gun for roughly every man, woman and child in America. So how can you with a straight face make the argument that more guns will make us safer?” he said, the referred to statistics, which indicate that states and countries with gun limits have far fewer gun deaths than those without.
Named in the media as 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer, the suspect is said to have moved to the States from England as a young boy. Harper-Mercer’s social media pages feature footage of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a song about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and various images of IRA members in military uniform.
Sheriff Hanlin has refused to name the suspected shooter.
“Let me be very clear,” he said, “I will not name the shooter. I will not give him credit for this horrific act of cowardice. Media will get the name confirmed in time… but you will never hear us use it.”
Let me be very clear: I will not name the shooter. I will not give him credit for this horrific act of cowardice. Media will get the name confirmed in time… but you will never hear us use it.”
“Focus your attention on the victims and their families and helping them to recover,” he added.
Believed to be new to the area, Harper-Mercer has been described as “nervy”.
His neighbours expressed shock at the incident.
“Especially when you’re in Roseburg, this community is like a family. I felt safe here and now I don’t feel anything close to safe,” said one female.
AP reports that Roseburg has seen school gun violence before. A freshman at the local high school shot and wounded a fellow student in 2006.