The New Normal (US Edition)

Alex Abramovich

Since taking office in 2009, Barack Obama has had to respond to mass shootings in Fort Hood, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Washington, DC;and Fort Hood, Texas (again). Several mass shootings, such as the 2012 massacre at Oikos University – a Christian school in Oakland, California – have gone almost unnoticed. Others, such as last week's shooting at a #BlackLivesMatter protest in Minneapolis, have gone unremarked on by the White House. But such is our new American normal. (It bears mentioning that Obama might have done more to curb gun violence, and unfettered access to guns, during his first year in office, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress.) As it is, here are the president's responses to mass shootings that took place in 2015:

'Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.' – in April, after the mass shooting at a Jewish community center in Kansas

'Let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.' – in June, after the mass shooting at a black church in South Carolina

'Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws – even in the face of repeated mass killings.” And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day! Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this.' – last month, after the mass shooting at a community college in Oregon

'This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this – if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience – then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.' – last week, after the mass shooting and standoff at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado

On a related note: the Vice co-founder Shane Smith's sensitive interview with the Eagles of Death Metal got a lot of attention last week. Here's his weekend update (the gun's a toy replica, but still):


  • 30 November 2015 at 4:54pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    It doesn't seem to make much impression when a president calls for more gun control even if several of the attacks were on places of worship. Schools are the other main target but perhaps it is simply that these places are where large groups gather and so make it easy for the gunman to kill a lot of people. (Are there any recorded instances of women taking up a weapon and slaughtering dozens of people?)
    Disturbing for me is the dichotomy between Obama's pious protests about killings in the USA and his willingness to used drones to kill people in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq - oh, I forgot, that is part of the "war against terror".
    The tendency of young males to dash out and loose off hundreds of rounds into crowds of defenseless people is an issue that Obama or his successor is unwilling to address. It is mirrored by the tendency of American police to resolve every incident on the streets by gunning down the supposed wrong-doer (if he's black).
    Massacres do happen in other countries but when they happen with such frequency in the country which believes (a) that it is God's own and (b) it carries a manifest destiny to bring freedom and democracy to benighted parts of the globe, then I begin to have my doubts. And when their closest ally in the "War on Terror" is a country in which you can be lashed a thousand lashes for daring to express a criticism of the state of freedom the 'debate' on mass killings turns into a modern version of the question so dear to ancient philosophers, how many angels can balance on the point of a needle. Now as then, we are asking the wrong questions.

  • 2 December 2015 at 7:18pm
    trishjw says:
    You criticize Obama for doing too little to change the gun culture here yet he is up again a Republican House and Senate that will do anything in their power to cancel out anything he does and if it happens to be foreign policy he is criticized for using diplomacy rather than military action. Congress must put up the bill, debate it and vote for it. At this point Republicans won't take the Democratic one nor write one of their own. Although the Republican party hasn't gone with the NRA ( National Rifle Association) with the past 2-3, they still state that if everyone had a gun whether it was the Paris Terror attack or the attack on Planned Parenthood last week they still say more guns would have brought the shooter(s) down much more quickly. No one seems to realize in the Republican Party that if you shoot a gun at someone one you are much more likely to be shot back at and also other innocent people like kids are much more apt to be hit in the crossfire.
    Nothing Obama does will satisfy Republicans. If you want military action become a voter and vote for Ted Cruz. As far as he is concerned anyone with a gun in any country in the world needs to be stopped by US military. We need to be the policemen of the world--right?? As far as he's concerned, we are/should be. He doesn't remember that JF Kennedy told Europe in the early 60's we can't be the policemen of the world. War on Terror has been over since Bush signed the closing down of actions before he stepped out of office. The Middle East has to bring down ISIS and they can if they want to.This is a series of civil wars within the Mesopotamian peninsula that must be settled by the leaders there. They will but most likely not in my time on this earth and possibly not yours. Their wars have been long and so will this one. See NY Times 12/02/2015, front page where they talk about the weakening of ISIS as a "state" and the turning away of many of the fighters. I hope it's true. I too must just wait and see.

    • 3 December 2015 at 12:28am
      rohitcuny says: @ trishjw
      One difficulty I find when reading liberal media is that when the Republicans are NOT at fault, the media simply look past the real cause.

      The truth is that both Libya and Syria are Obama's babies. No doubt Bush made a mistake when he invaded Iraq (which admittedly had nothing to do with 9-11).

      But both Libya and Syria were (sort of) fine when Bush stepped down. It was NATO (of which Obama's US is a leading member) which dethroned Gaddafi, a fact which ultimately led to his lynching by NATO allies. It was Obama who said that Assad must go, leading eventually to the death of 250,000 Syrians.

      Obama has the same project which Bush had which is a) to establish American style democracy in all non-democratic countries and b) to overthrow any regime which is not sufficiently pro-American.

      This is why Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are both "fine" because while they are not really democracies, they are pro-US, the only thing which ultimately matters.

      I am not defending Bush. But all of Obama's sins should NOT be laid at his door.

  • 2 December 2015 at 10:21pm
    Alex Abramovich says:
    Hence: "during his first year in office, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress."

  • 2 December 2015 at 10:22pm
    Alex Abramovich says:
    The president, a few days later: "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, common-sense 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."

  • 2 December 2015 at 11:23pm
    dsueii says:
    Oh, I think there's a parallel for it in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world Mr. President. Gun laws anywhere haven't stopped terrorists from obtaining weapons and "common-sense gun safety law, stronger background checks, etc" aren't going to eliminate the crazies here from doing likewise.

  • 3 December 2015 at 12:15am
    Ann says:
    After JFK was shot in Dallas, a friend from Mexico City said to me, "It's not a question of guns -- it's a question of people." I wonder whether he would say that now. Is the world more complicated in 2015? Or do even the best and brightest still look for simple answers? To quote H.L. Mencken, "To every question there are thousands of simple answers --- all of them are wrong."

  • 6 December 2015 at 1:13am
    judgefloyd says:
    It's often pointed out that strict gun laws, background checks and other reasonable measures won't stop shootings, as if that's a reason for doing nothing. By that reasoning, since rapes, murders and thefts occur in spite of the existence of laws and police forces, we should stop trying to prevent those things either. The logic is false. All that's needed to make gun laws and background checks a good idea is for them to stop one preventable shooting.

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