Comparing Trump and Obama reactions to mass shootings
Trump and his predecessor dealt with mass shootings two years apart.
— -- The sheer number of mass shootings in America means that presidents – and recent presidents more than most -- have had to deal with the aftermath.
Former President Obama addressed mass shootings roughly 18 times during his administration, with some of his most damning comments coming exactly two years before this weekend's deadly shooting in Las Vegas.
For Obama, it was the shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, where nine people were killed Oct. 1, 2015. And for President Trump, it was the Sunday shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas, where at least 59 people were killed and 527 others injured.
While both mass shootings included deaths, life-saving first responders and acts of heroism, the two presidents’ responses were starkly different.
The 2015 Roseburg shooting
Obama opened his remarks in the press briefing room by saying "there's been another mass shooting in America."
"That means there are more American families -- moms, dads, children -- whose lives have been changed forever," he said.
Obama went on to talk about how the response of many people to mass shootings has become almost routine, and to criticize those who only offered words instead of actions.
"Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” he said. “It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America -- next week, or a couple of months from now.”
"Of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together," Obama said.
"When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense," he added,
Obama wasn't the only one calling for action.
Then-candidate Trump also reacted to the Roseburg shooting and shared his thoughts with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
"No matter how you cut it, you have people that are mentally ill and they have problems and they're going to slip through the cracks," Trump said.
He went on to say that "the gun laws have nothing to do with this" but said he wouldn't be passive if he were president.
"This isn't guns. This is about, really, mental illness. And I feel very strongly about it. And, again, politically correct, oh, we're going to solve the problem. They'll be no problem," Trump said in 2015.
Reaction to the latest shooting
Trump gave a statement from the White House Diplomatic Room the morning after the Las Vegas shooting, which struck a somewhat different tone.
He called the shooting "an act of pure evil," thanked first responders and offered condolences to the victims.
"Hundreds of our fellow citizens are now mourning the sudden loss of a loved one -- a parent, a child, a brother or sister,” the president said. “We cannot fathom their pain. We cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims: We are praying for you and we are here for you, and we ask God to help see you through this very dark period.”
Trump quoted Scripture, ordered federal flags to be flown at half-staff and announced that he would be traveling to Nevada two days later.
He made no mention of gun laws or steps to be taken to prevent mass shootings from happening again.
"In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness,” he said. “The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”
The day after Trump gave his formal statement, he was asked by reporters this morning whether the Las Vegas shooting, which is now the deadliest in modern U.S. history, would prompt him to pursue gun control legislation.
"We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes on," Trump said.
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