A presidential statement on a mass shooting might have once seemed like a major moment. Now, it’s just another rote step in a numb ritual of response to mass shootings. Time and again, President Obama has stepped to a lectern to deliver a string of increasingly frustrated statements about gun violence in America.
Obama hasn’t yet made a statement from the White House, but he was sitting for an interview with CBS shortly after being briefed on the shooting, as details were still emerging, and told Norah O’Donnell this:
The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world, and there's some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don't happen as frequently, commonsense gun-safety laws, stronger background checks and you know, for those who are concerned about terrorism of, you know, some may be aware of the fact that we have a no fly list where people can't get on planes but those same people who we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm and there's nothing that we can do to stop them…. 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.
The president previously made news with a furious statement at the start of October after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, when he said, “This is a political choice that we make 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.” Those comments were in line with a rhetorical shift that Adam Chandler noted in July, in which Obama has begun speaking more specifically about the easy availability of guns to those who would do harm.
The one thing that seems to unite the president’s recent statements on mass shootings is his consistent focus on the uniqueness of American gun violence, paired with an angry resignation. “There is always an odd accusatory tone to POTUS comments like this,” the writer and Republican strategist Stuart Stevens said on Twitter. “As if he were social critic not nation’s leader.”