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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Oregon School Shooting Renews Frustration Cycle

(CN) - A mass shooting that left 10 dead in Oregon on Thursday has renewed tension about how the United States handles these tragedies, whether by gratuitous media attention on the killer or by impotently debating gun-control laws.

An enraged Oregon sheriff's office says it will never speak the name of the gunman behind the deadly rampage at Umpqua Community College.

"I will not name the shooter," Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said in a statement. "I will not give him credit for this horrific act of cowardice."

Citing police sources, several news outlets have since identified the gunman as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. His death at the scene in Roseburg, Ore., Thursday led Sheriff Hanlin to confirm 10 deaths and seven injuries from the shooting.

The rampage occurred just one day after a school principal survived a shooting in Harrisburg, S.D. The suspect in that shooting, 16-year-old Mason Buhl was arraigned on an attempted-murder charge in adult court Thursday.

While Sheriff Hanlin in Oregon is apparently focused on not glorifying the shooter, others are questioning how the UCC tragedy will affect his stance on gun control.

Mother Jones identified Hanlin as one of hundreds of sheriffs who sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden Hanlin about a month after the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A copy of Hanlin's letter shows that he vowed not to enforce the restrictions being proposed at that time, calling them "irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people."

Hanlin's office will hold its next press conference on the UCC shooting at 10 a.m. local time.

President Barack Obama spoke out Thursday against how these shootings have become commonplace.

"Somehow this has become routine," Obama added. "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."

Obama predicted the routine response that Thursday's shooting will bring from Second Amendment groups.

"Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out: 'We need more guns, they'll argue. Fewer gun safety laws.' Does anybody really believe that?" Obama asked.

Polling shows that a "majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws - including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners," Obama added.

"There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America," he continued. "So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don't work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence."

Though Great Britain and Australia crafted legislation that eliminated mass shootings in response to such tragedies, the United States has become "the only advanced country in the world that sees these shootings every few months," Obama said.

Umpqua Community College, a two-year school with about 3,300 full-time students and 16,000 part-time students, has said its doors will open again Monday.

"This is the saddest day in the 50 year history of UCC," UCC Interim President Rita Cavin said in a statement posted to the school's website. "Our hearts go out to every student, every employee, and every family touched by this tragedy."

The first 911 call about the shooting came in at 10:38 a.m., and police say they neutralized the situation 11 minutes later.

"We have at least two heroic officers who responded into the building within minutes and exchanged gunfire with the shooter," a tweet from the sheriff's office said.

Hanlin's office added that the Oregon State Police "is handling the officer-involved shooting aspect of #UCCShooting investigation."

"They will release info at a future time," the tweet continues.

Reports indicate that Mercer began firing through a window in the academic building Snyder Hall. He then entered the building, told everyone to get on the ground, then asked everyone to stand up and state their religion and began firing.

Citing witnesses, the Washington Post said Mercer appeared to single out Christians.

Sheriff Hanlin noted that evidence teams with the FBI and state police are now working to process the crime scene.

"Tactical teams/bomb technicians have cleared all campus buildings; officers working to clear hundreds of campus-parked vehicles," a tweet from the sheriff's office says.

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