Obama spent about an hour with the families at Roseburg High School before briefly addressing the community and telling Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that if there was anything he could do to help at the federal level, he would do it.
“I’ve obviously got very strong feelings about this,” he said, adding that at some point the nation would have to “come together” to figure out how to prevent such tragedies from occurring so frequently.
“We’re going to have to come together as a country, but today is about the families,” he said.
The visit was met with mixed feelings from the grieving community. Although the city said in statement that Obama was welcome, some residents planned protests at several locations in Roseburg, The Oregonian reported.
Among the several hundred people who gathered to greet Obama at the airport, some carried signs welcoming the president, while others held signs protesting his repeated calls for tougher gun control laws. Some of the negative signs read: “Gun free zones are for sitting ducks,” “Obama is wrong,” and “Nothing trumps our liberty.”
“My family, my friends, everybody down here is not happy about him coming,” said Michelle Finn, a Roseburg resident who attended Umpqua Community College. “He already says he’s going to politicize this – he’s already going to push his agenda. And if he knew Roseburg and Douglas County, he’d know these are the wrong people to be doing that with.”
And the father of shooting survivor Ana Boylan declined to meet with the president because he too believed Obama was using the opportunity to push for greater gun control.
“I do believe it was Rahm Emmanuel that said, ‘Never let a good tragedy go to waste,’ ” Stacy Boylan told Fox News, adding that he questioned Obama’s motives. (Emmanuel said as White House chief of staff during the financial crisis, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things that you think that you could not do before.”)
“On principle, I find that I am in disagreement with his policies on gun control, and therefore, we will not be attending the visit,” Boylan added of the president.
Nine people were killed and nine others were injured after 26-year-old gunman Chris Harper Mercer opened fire at the rural Oregon college on Oct. 1, and later took his own life.
An emotional Obama called for stricter gun control laws when he addressed the nation on the evening of the shooting, saying, “What’s become routine … is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.”
“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?”