WASHINGTON — A visibly frustrated President Barack Obama said Thursday that thoughts and prayers are no longer enough as Americans respond to another deadly school shooting, and he challenged voters wanting to deal with the problem to vote for elected officials who will do something.
Obama addressed the nation from the White House after 13 people were killed by a 20-year-old gunman at Umpqua Community College in southwestern Oregon. As he noted, he’s done this before. Mass shootings have become embedded in the arc of Obama’s presidency. He’s traveled to Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Charleston, South Carolina, and numerous other cities to mourn victims of gun violence.
Obama, with some anger in his voice, said the nation has become numb to such shootings and the response has become routine. He called for changes in the nation’s gun laws, though it’s unclear at this stage whether the changes often proposed would have prevented Thursday’s massacre.
“Somehow this has become routine,” Obama said at the White House.
“We can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws,” said a stony-faced Obama. “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.”
The White House’s failed push for gun control legislation after the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, shooting — in which 20 children and six adults were killed at an elementary school — deeply frustrated Obama. With little change in Washington’s political dynamic, he hasn’t made a concerted effort to renew the gun control effort. In responding to Thursday’s shooting, Obama asked how anyone with a straight face can make the argument that more guns will make people safer.
“I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws and to save lives and to let young people grow up, and that will require a change of politics on this issue,” Obama said.
“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,” Obama charged.
“Prayers are not enough,” he said. “This is a political choice we make.”
“This is not something I can do myself. I have to have a Congress and state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.”
Obama said there is a gun for roughly every man, woman and child in the US.
“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,” Obama said. “But based on my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say.