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Tuesday, 14 June 2016
How Obama's reaction to mass shooting has changed in the last four years
Barack Obama has been unable to enact any meaningful gun legislation during his presidency; and this frustration has shown in recent statements.
Mr Obama’s address on Sunday was the 18th time he has spoken or made a statement in the wake of a mass shooting.
His most emotional reaction came in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown where 26 people were killed in December 2012. Wiping away tears and choking up, Mr Obama mourned the “beautiful little kids” killed in the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
It was a rare emotional display from Mr Obama who addressed the nation as a parent rather than a president. "I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do”.
In June 2015, Mr Obama delivered a statement on the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
The usually stoic President made an address that was founded upon the loss of an old friend Reverend Clementa Pinckney.
“Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.”
“Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.”
Mr Obama’s irritation on being unable to enact meaningful gun reforms during his presidency began to show in this address.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times.”
“Let’s be clear: at some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”
Fast forward four months and Mr Obama found himself having to address the nation again on a mass shooting, this time in Oregon.
In at twelve-minute address, the President used 80 seconds to offer his condolences to the victims, before clearly stating “it’s not enough”.
“It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some place else in America next week or a couple months from now.”
In the next ten minutes, Mr Obama delivered an impassioned and honest speech on gun reform; fuelled by seven years of being unable to make any changes to stop incidents like Oregon, Charleston and Newtown.
“Somehow, this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it — we've become numb to this.”
“And of course, what's also routine is that somebody somewhere will comment and say, ‘Obama politicised this issue.’ This is something we should politicise. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.”
Mr Obama blamed the absence of bipartisanship in the Congress for the lack of progress in reform.
“We spend over $1 trillion and pass countless laws and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be? This is a political choice that we make — to allow this to happen every few months in America.”
For one of the first times during his presidency, Mr Obama put his stance clearly, and in no uncertain terms: “Each time this happens, I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we're going to have to change our laws.”
“I've got to have a Congress and I've got to have state legislators and governors who are willing to work with me on this.” “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.”
Two months on, in an interview with CBS, Mr Obama reaffirmed his stance in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino.
"We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events, because it doesn’t happen with the same frequency in other countries."
On Sunday, Mr Obama cut a familar figure of frustration when speaking about the mass shooting in Orlando that killed at least 49 people.
"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 theatre, 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."