ROSEBURG, Oregon (AFP) - US President Barack Obama met in Oregon Friday with relatives of victims of a deadly rampage at a community college, as shootings on two other university campuses left two people dead and four wounded.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the gate to the local airport to greet Obama, where he earned a mixed reception.
While one sign said “Welcome to Roseburg,” others read “Obama is wrong” and “Nothing Trumps Our Liberty” – clear signs that the president’s visit to the rural, conservative community is not welcomed by all.
Obama delivered an impassioned plea for stricter gun controls after last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, in which a 26-year-old gunman shot dead nine people and then committed suicide.
“I’ve obviously got strong feelings about this,” he said Friday during his hour-long meeting with families at Roseburg High School, attended by Oregon Governor Kate Brown.
“We’re going to have to come together as a country, but today is about the families,” Obama said.
But the father of one girl who was shot in the back and survived by playing dead accused the President of politicising the tragedy, and said earlier this week that he had declined an invitation to meet him.
“On principle, I find that I am in disagreement with his policies on gun control, and therefore, we (the family) will not be attending the visit,” Stacy Boylan told Fox News.
The publisher of the local paper, David Jaques, has also denounced the visit, saying Obama was not “welcome here to grandstand for political purposes.”
The city of Roseburg issued a statement on Tuesday saying such comments did not represent the community as a whole, and that the President would receive a warm welcome.
The Oct 1 shooting in Roseburg has revived the thorny debate on gun control in America – and two more deadly incidents on Friday were sure to fuel the discussion.
‘CONFRONTATION’ IN ARIZONA
In Arizona, one person was killed and three others suffered multiple gunshot wounds at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the city of Flagstaff before the gunman was captured.
The first emergency calls came through to police at 1.20am Friday, when most NAU students would have been in bed.
“Two of our student groups got into a confrontation. The confrontation turned physical and one of our students shot the other students. Four of our students were shot,” said Gregory Fowler, chief of NAU police.
“We have one student deceased and three others being treated at the Flagstaff medical centre.”
The alleged shooter, named by police as 18-year-old freshman Steven Jones, was taken into custody and did not attempt to escape arrest.
All the victims were male students.
It was not immediately clear what the confrontation was about, but Jones was cooperating with police, Fowler said.
NAU spokeswoman Cindy Brown told CNN that the incident occurred in a parking lot next to a residence hall on campus, which is a designated “gun-free” zone with 20,000 students.
Students described how they were woken up by a university text message warning them of the shooting or by calls from worried friends and family.
“You don’t expect that in Flagstaff. I never thought it would happen here,” one student, Megan Aardahl, told CNN, describing how her room was just yards from where the shooting took place.
“There is a huge community here and everyone is reaching out and making sure everyone’s okay.”
University president Rita Hartung Cheng said she was “shocked and deeply saddened.”
“This is not going to be a normal day at NAU. Our hearts are heavy,” she added.
In Houston, one person was killed and another wounded on Friday in a shooting at a campus apartment complex at Texas Southern University, police said, adding that one possible suspect had been detained.
Houston police said the incident “does not involve an active shooter,” but the university nonetheless placed the campus on lockdown and cancelled classes for the rest of the day.
In the wake of the Umpqua killings, Obama angrily called on Congress to do more and warned that failure to act on gun control was a “political decision,” vowing to keep pushing for reform..