President Barack Obama is furious.
On Thursday, Obama spoke about the Umpqua Community College shooting in southwestern Oregon. He did not mask his anger about the tragedy — and America's apparent unwillingness to do anything about it.
"As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough," Obama said. "It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America next week or a couple of months from now."
"We don't yet know why this individual did what he did, and it's fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds," Obama said. "But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses who want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months."
He added, "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."
Obama concluded his remarks by emphasizing that he will bring this issue up again and again, urging the public to push Congress and state legislatures to pass new gun control measures. "Each time this happens, I am going to say that we can actually can do something about it, but we're going to have to change our laws," he said. "I hope and pray that I don't have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as president, I can't guarantee that — and that's terrible to say. And it can change."
Obama is right: America has extraordinary levels of gun violence — and gun control laws could help deal with the problem
In fact, no other developed country comes close to the levels of gun violence, including suicides, or gun ownership that America has, as this chart from Tewksbury Lab shows:
The correlation this chart demonstrates — more guns mean more gun deaths — has been backed by a lot of research. Whether at the state or country level, reviews of the studies by the Harvard School of Public Health's Injury Control Research Center have consistently found that places with more guns have more deaths after controlling for variables like socioeconomic factors and other crime. "Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide," David Hemenway, the Injury Control Research Center's director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health.
This is widely believed by some experts to be the consequence of America's relaxed policy approach to and culture of guns: Making more guns more accessible means more guns, and more guns mean more deaths. Researchers have found this not just with general homicides, but also with suicides, domestic violence, and even violence against police.
Maybe some Americans can look at these statistics and studies and still decide that the right to bear arms should be protected and gun control is a bad policy. But given the research, America's policies and attitudes toward guns have clear, deadly costs.