'This has become routine... We've become numb'

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a news conference in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, on Oct 2, 2015.
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a news conference in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, on Oct 2, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • President Barack Obama said the United States had grown numb to mass shootings and faulted lawmakers for failing to take action, hours after a gunman opened fire at a community college in Oregon.

Appearing in the White House briefing room on Thursday with a grim expression and a frustrated tone, Mr Obama challenged US voters of all political stripes to hold their leaders accountable if they wanted to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

"We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction," Mr Obama told reporters.


  • JUNE 17

    A white supremacist gunman kills nine black churchgoers during a Bible study session at a historic, predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof, is awaiting trial.

    AUG 26

    A reporter and a cameraman are fatally ambushed by a former employee of their Roanoke, Virginia, television station while they are interviewing a woman on live TV. The woman is wounded.

    The 41-year-old gunman, Vester Flanagan, later kills himself as police pursue him on a highway hours after the shooting.


There have been more than a dozen mass shootings in the US since Mr Obama took office. He and Vice-President Joe Biden made a push for gun control reforms after the 2012 shooting of children in a Newtown, Connecticut school that shocked the country, but were unsuccessful.

Mr Obama has blamed the influential National Rifle Association lobby group for that failure, which he has called one of the biggest frustrations of his time in office.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike offered thoughts and prayers for the victims of the Oregon massacre and their family members on Thursday, but a visibly upset Mr Obama said that was not enough.

"Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine," he said. "We've become numb to this."

He asked news organisations to tally the number of Americans killed by terror attacks over the past 10 years and compare it with the number killed by domestic gun violence.

Using data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN found that from 2004 to 2013, 316,545 people died by firearms on US soil. Over the same period, the number of US citizens killed in terror attacks overseas as well as people killed in terror incidents in the US totalled 313.

The US Constitution guarantees Americans the right to bear arms. But Mr Obama said it did not make sense to argue that the Constitution prevented sensible reforms.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline ''This has become routine... We've become numb''. Print Edition | Subscribe