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Obama on epidemic of mass shootings: 'We should be ashamed'

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At long last, the President finally made the connection between the unconscionable ease with which people can obtain lethal weapons and mental illness.

"You know, the United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people," President Obama said at a Tumblr Q&A on June 10. "It's not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else. Well, what's the difference? The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses. And that's sort of par for the course.

"So the country has to do some soul-searching about this. This is becoming the norm. And we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me. And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions. But right now, it's not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress. And we should be ashamed of that."

I was just in Taiwan where the unimaginable happened: a guy slashed 28 people on a metro train within 5 minutes before anyone realized what had taken place. 4 died of their wounds. The whole country was in shock - a mass slaying like this hadn't happened in anyone's memory.

If it had been a New York City subway train, the guy would have had multiple assault weapons and cartridges holding100 rounds each - a hundred people could have been murdered in the minute it would have taken to get to the next subway stop.

President Obama made the remark during a Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr, who relayed this question:

“'Mr. President, my name is Nick Dineen, and I attend school at the University of California-Santa Barbara. I was the RA for the floor that George Chen lived on last year as a first-year college student. I knew him. Elliot Rodger killed him and five more of my fellow students. Today, another man has shot and killed at least one person and injured three others at a private Christian school in Seattle. What are you going to do? What can we all do?' And of course, another mass shooting this morning."

The President replied, "I have to say that people often ask me, you know, how’s it been being president and, you know, what are my -- you know, what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments? And you know, I've got 2 1/2 years left. My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of, you know, people who, you know, can do just unbelievable damage.

"We're the only developed country on Earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. And it's a one-day story. There's no place else like this.

"A couple of decades ago Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown, and Australia just said, 'well, that's it. We're not doing, we're not seeing that again,' and basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws, and they haven't had a mass shooting since. I mean, our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There's no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.

Now, we have a different tradition. We have a Second Amendment. We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights.

But the idea that, for example, we couldn't even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you're going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can't just walk up to a store and buy a semi-automatic weapon? It makes no sense.

And I don't know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara -- and as a father myself I just, I could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out. Why aren't we doing something about this? And I will tell you that I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don't surprise me. The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn't do anything about it was stunning to me. And so the question then becomes, what can we do about it?

The only thing that's going to change is public opinion. If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change. I've initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules and the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don't have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to.

And most members of Congress -- and I have to say to some degree this is bipartisan -- are terrified of the NRA. The combination of, you know, the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections. And so if you're running for office right now, that's where you feel the heat. And people on the other side may be generally favorable towards things like background checks and other common-sense rules, but they're not as motivated, so that doesn't end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on.

And until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say, ‘enough; this is not acceptable; this is not normal; this isn't, sort of, the price we should be paying for our freedom; that we can have respect for the Second Amendment, and responsible gun owners and sportsmen and hunters can have, you know, the ability to possess weapons, but that we are going to, you know, put some common-sense rules in place that make a dent, at least, in what's happening’ -- until that is not just the majority view – ‘cause that's already the majority view, even the majority of gun owners believe that -- but until that's a view that people feel passionately about and are willing to go after folks who don't, you know, vote reflecting those values -- until that happens, sadly, not much is going to change."

There have been 75 school shootings, just since Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct.

33,000 people are killed in the United States each year because of guns -the equivalent of a 9/11 each month.

And now, mothers have to be fearful of going to shop at Target or Walmart, or going into restaurants.

And now there is another, perhaps even more frightening problem: the notion that these gun nuts feel they are entitled to murder law enforcement people and government workers, as well as random individuals.

It doesn't matter if you call yourself a "patriot" and wave the Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" flag, or declare "the revolution has begun". These people - like the Las Vegas couple who assassinated two police officers and a random person, draping a Gadsden flag and a swastika over one dead policeman, are terrorists. Home grown terrorists.

And what if these assault-rifle carrying thugs choose to cram into town hall meetings or stand in front of voting booths?

If cash is free speech, bullets strip free speech away.

I wonder what would happen if liberals took to strutting about with assault weapons in hand, too. Now, these people think they are all of the same political persuasion.

Parents should send a message to colleges in states with guns everywhere policies and where guns are allowed on campus - that they will not allow their children to attend.

Shoppers should refuse to patronize stores where guns are strutted.

And voters should turn out politicians who are in the service of the NRA.

Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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