In the wake of a shooting that left five police officers dead in Dallas, US president Barack Obama has given yet another speech about gun violence in America, his second this week. He called the Dallas shooting, which took place during a Black Lives Matter rally on July 7, a “vicious, calculated, and despicable attack on law enforcement.”
He also stressed the dangers of widespread ownership of “powerful weapons,” as he has many times before. Obama has delivered at least five speeches in response to deadly shootings so far this year, and as many as 17 since the start of his presidency. The common themes of these statements are outrage, sympathy, and frustration.
July 8, 2016: “Vicious, calculated, and despicable”
Speaking from a NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, Obama told reporters:
We still don’t know all the facts. What we do know is that there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement…
Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices that they make for us. We also know that when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead, we’re going to have to consider those realities as well.
July 7, 2016: “These are not isolated incidents”
The day before, the president made a statement in response to the fatal shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. Calling on law enforcement and local communities to build trust, he said:
…all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings, because these are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.
Ultimately, if you can rebuild trust between communities and the police departments that serve them, that helps us solve crime problems. That will make life easier for police officers. They will have more cooperation. They will be safer. They will be more likely to come home. So it would be good for crime-fighting and it will avert tragedy.
June 16, 2016: “Why does this keep happening?”
After an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that left nearly 50 dead, Obama said:
Today, once again, as has been true too many times before, I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, why does this keep happening? And they pleaded that we do more to stop the carnage. They don’t care about the politics. Neither do I…
I’ve said this before—we will not be able to stop every tragedy. We can’t wipe away hatred and evil from every heart in this world. But we can stop some tragedies. We can save some lives. We can reduce the impact of a terrorist attack if we’re smart. And if we don’t act, we will keep seeing more massacres like this— because we’ll be choosing to allow them to happen. We will have said, we don’t care enough to do something about it.
February 22, 2016: “All of you are just as tired as I am of seeing this stuff happen”
After an Uber driver killed six people on a rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Obama made the following statement during a meeting with state governors:
Earlier this year, I took some steps that will make it harder for dangerous people, like this individual, to buy a gun. But clearly, we’re going to need to do more if we’re going to keep innocent Americans safe. And I’ve got to assume that all of you are just as tired as I am of seeing this stuff happen in your states. So that’s an area where we also need to partner and think about what we can do in a common-sense way, in a bipartisan way, without some of the ideological rhetoric that so often surrounds that issue.
January 5, 2016: “Somehow we’ve become numb to it”
In an emotional speech about gun control, during which Obama teared up while recounting the 20 children killed in the 2012 mass shooting at a school in Connecticut, the president said “the constant excuses for inaction… no longer suffice.”
The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close. And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.