How President Obama's take on mass shootings has evolved

Posted June 16, 2016

As mass shootings have become a growing concern across the country, the White House's public statements have changed since Barack Obama first took office. (Deseret Photo)

In the wake of the Orlando LGBT nightclub shooting that killed 49 people and the gunman and injured 50 others, President Barack Obama gave what might be his most frustrated statement about gun violence yet and what he considers Congress' ongoing inaction about gun control.

"We have to decide if this is the kind of country we want to be,” Obama said just after news of the shooting began to spread. “To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

That's considerably tougher talk from an administration that once, like many public institutions, chalked up public and mass shootings as uncommon tragedies linked often to extremism or mental illness.

But in the dozens of shootings that have taken place during his tenure, Obama has become more vocal about his stance on what he calls lax gun-control laws. The change is considerable enough that The Guardian composed a video of Obama's speeches following shootings to mark the shift. After 2013's Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shooting, Obama's tone changed considerably.

"I fear there’s a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We can’t accept this,” Obama said then.

It was a frustration he echoed again, just months later, after a massacre at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times," Obama said after the announcement. "Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun."

As Vox reported, Obama told a crowd gathered for a town hall event in Elkhart, Indiana, about how lenient American gun laws could lead to an event like Orlando — 10 days before it happened.

"We’re allowed to put (known ISIS sympathizers) on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun," Obama said at the town hall. "And if (the sympathizer) wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much — as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is."

The gunman in the Orlando shooting was a known ISIS sympathizer who had been interviewed by the FBI multiple times before the shooting.


Twitter: ChandraMJohnson


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