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President gets it right on guns

So it has happened yet again. Nine more Americans have been senselessly gunned down, this time in Roseburg on Oct. 1.

These latest slayings, at the hands of a lone gunman in a community college classroom, add to an unbearably lengthy (and growing ever-longer) list of communities that have experienced a mass shooting.

As the awful details were being reported, we were struck by the visible pain and frustration of President Barack Obama, who renewed his clarion call for changes in our nation’s gun laws.

In our view, Obama’s 12-minute statement on the topic last Thursday evening rang true in a number of important ways. Against the backdrop of a Congress that willfully refuses to make any substantive changes to the way Americans can obtain all types of guns, he pointed out that the plague of shootings has become almost “routine,” from the predictable way the press does its reporting on the attacks to the political response in the wake of these periodic tragedies.

We believe the realities President Obama outlined last week were accurate on essentially every count, and his comments, while impassioned, were remarkably well-reasoned.

Early on in his statement, he reflected on the pain of “moms, dads, children — whose lives have been changed forever.” He went on to note that the United States is the only advanced country on Earth that endures mass shootings every few months.

Coming up with workable solutions to these violent outbreaks is not something that will be simple to figure out. But it’s obviously something we as a people need to get a handle on.

This is a problem our society has created on numerous levels — not just on the relatively easy availability of guns in our culture, but also from the unrelenting violence of television programming; video games that seem to celebrate killing; inadequate funding for mental health services; talk radio programs brimming with venom and rage; and even lax enforcement of some existing laws.

Obama hit home another vitally important truth toward the end of his talk in the wake of the killings in Roseburg, and it’s something every American should think about: “This is a political choice that we make,” he said, “to allow this to happen every few months in America ... When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer ... 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 ... doesn’t make sense.”

The president also made a strong case in dismissing the commonly-held notion that discussing restrictions on gun availability in the aftermath of a deadly tragedy is unfairly “politicizing” the issue: “This is something we should politicize,” Obama explained. “It is related to our common life together; to the body politic.”

He later added that the American people would be well-advised to consider the stance of political candidates on gun safety issues when they cast their votes in upcoming elections. He urged voters to make “a determination as to whether this cause of continuing deaths of innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”

Yet given the recent history of our polarized political parties, and a Congress usually more interested in obstruction than finding intelligent solutions to problems, we fear President Obama’s latest call — which we believe is the right approach — may once again not be acted upon. As Obama stated, “we’ve become numb to this.”

We can only hope and pray that wise and thoughtful political leaders of all stripes recognize the need for working together as one with a common purpose — to find innovative and courageous ways to solve this growing crisis in our society. Because it’s clear that people of all political parties and all persuasions remain at constant risk with the status quo.