Mass shootings take place with depressing regularity in modern American life. Even if it is those shootings take ar in Parkland or las Vegas, Newtown or fort Hood, the effect on our public discourse is the same. Those ~ above the left speak to for more gun control. Those top top the best talk around mental health and wellness and far better enforcement of the laws already on the books. The emotional and also intellectual responses that most individuals to together tragedies rarely affect our national discourse, except in one notable case: the chairman of the joined States.

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Over the food of ours history, the duty and influence of the president during a regional tragedy or dilemm have progressed significantly. In the 19th century, presidents had tiny involvement in crisis response and disaster management, because that both technological and constitution reasons. Their influence was restricted technologically due to the fact that the country lacked the communications capabilities needed to inform the president in a stylish manner as soon as disaster struck thousands of miles away. Also when the telegraph and later the telephone gone into the equation, the country still lacked the fixed media needed to administer the American civilization with real-time awareness that far-flung events. Naturally, this impacted the political contact for presidents to involve themselves in neighborhood crises.

Then there were the constitutional reasons. In the 19th century, there was a bipartisan agreement that responding come domestic calamities was merely not a duty of the commander in chief. In the so late 1800s, both Democrat Grover Cleveland and also Republican Benjamin Harrison do clear the they did no see neighborhood disaster an answer as a commonwealth responsibility. Cleveland vetoed capital appropriated by conference to relieve drought-stricken Texas farmer in 1887 because that this reason. And also Harrison told the victims of the Johnstown flood in 1889 the responding come the disaster, which killed much more than 2,000 people, to be the governor"s responsibility.

Unlike past disasters, however, mass shootings room a late-20th-century American phenomenon, with a persistent and frightening rise in regularity in the early-21st century. Existing presidents can"t look to any kind of of the faces on mount Rushmore for how to take care of mass shootings due to the fact that those presidents, good as castle were, go not have actually to resolve this challenge. In addition, contemporary presidents, uneven the presidents that yesteryear, space expected come respond come disasters and also to offer as the nation"s consoler in chef after national tragedies. However the truth that presidents in our remote past go not have these obligations nor challenge these details crises walk not typical that contemporary presidents can"t learn from the action of their much more immediate predecessors. America has actually been handling this trouble for more than half a century now, and the commander in chief can now look come the examples of multiple previous presidents. In feather at these examples, perhaps we together a society can begin to find some badly necessary solutions together well.

PRESIDENTIAL SILENCE

The first mass shoot in the cumulative American storage was the college of Texas at Austin shoot in respectable 1966. The shooter, equipped with 6 weapons and ensconced at the peak of the university of Texas Tower, killed 17 people, wounding an ext than 30 others. As this was the an initial high-profile mass shoot in American history, President lyndon Johnson had actually no precedents to look come in stimulate to assist determine his reaction. It"s difficult to overestimate the level to which precedent is a determinant of presidential behavior. Presidents and also their staffs continuous look to their precursors to check out how similar situations were handled. Lock often find justification for their habits in the plot of those who came prior to them; as soon as they pick to go in a different direction, the is normally not out of ignorance, however in an effort to make some type of statement around how they believe presidents have to act. Furthermore, presidents are acutely aware that journalists and also historians track as soon as presidents stick to precedent, and also when they break it.

In the situation of the university of Texas shooting, though, precedent could no serve Johnson together a guide. Moreover, there were a couple of distinctive circumstances in that shooting — both regarded Johnson"s gift a aboriginal Texan — that would certainly not apply to most future shootings. First, Johnson"s mystery Service detail was there in Texas in ~ the time and helped respond to the shooting. While we now have police protocols governing responses to this kind of incident, at the moment it was treated as an all-hands-on-deck situation. In addition to local and campus police, separation, personal, instance citizens jumped into action with searching rifles, and also the an enig Service gotten in the fray as well. The police lacked handheld radios, limiting the ability of responders to interact with one another. In the end, 3 brave Austin police officers, in addition to a deputized Air force veteran, rushed the tower and also silenced the killer, with policemans Ramiro Martinez and also Houston McCoy shoot the fatal shots. 

The second unique element of the college of Texas incident was that Johnson had actually a link to one of the victims. Johnson owned Austin radio station KTBC, or, technically speaking, his wife Lady Bird did. (The radio terminal would officially become KLBJ in 1973.) On the day in 1966, KTBC reporter Neal Spelce spanned the event live and issued crucial warning to Austin residents: "Do no go close to the U.T. Tower. Over there is a sniper in ~ the tower, shooting at will...." In those pre-Twitter days, radio was the best means to spread such message to the widest feasible audience. Throughout the harrowing incident, KTBC news manager Paul Bolton heard the first list that casualties being check out from a local hospital. Bolton grabbed a microphone back in the newsroom. "I think you have my grandson on there," he said, live ~ above the air. "Go over that list of name again, please." Bolton"s grandson and namesake, Paul Sonntag, one 18-year-old lifeguard, had come to the campus to choose up a paycheck. He to be shot in the head and also died instantly. Bolton stayed on the task for the remainder the the incident. Later, president Johnson dubbed Bolton to offer his condolences. 

Beyond these 2 oddities, Johnson"s very first reaction sounds acquainted to 21st-century ears. On august 2, 1966, the work after the shooting, White house press secretary bill Moyers check out a statement by the president the said, "What occurred is not without a lesson: the we should press urgently because that the regulation now pending in congress to help prevent the wrong person from obtaining firearms." The statement added that "he bill would not protect against all such tragedies. Yet it would help reduce the unrestricted sale of guns to those that cannot be reliable in their use and possession."

A variation of the bill Johnson was advocating go pass 2 years later, after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Gun control Act the 1968 minimal interstate and also mail-order purchases of firearms. Johnson signed the bill right into law but additionally argued that it did no go far enough: "The voices that blocked these safeguards were no the voices of one aroused nation. They to be the voices the a powerful gun lobby that has actually prevailed for the moment in an choice year." 

The Austin shooting would remain the deadliest in the nation"s background for 18 years. (In order to abide through a standard definition of "mass shooting," the complying with addresses those events figured out by the Los Angeles Times in a compilation of fixed shootings in the U.S. Because 1984.) In July 1984, during Ronald Reagan"s first term together president, a gunman eliminated 21 people at a McDonald"s in san Ysidro, California. Unlike Johnson, Reagan did no say noþeles publicly around the shooting. In fact, a find by the New York Times revealed the "he Times did not report any comment native the management of chairman Ronald Reagan. His public papers show no explanation on the topic in the days following." McDonald"s exposed its very own commercials complying with the incident, and also in this there appears to be some indication the Reagan"s approach to these type of matters. Once the Tylenol poisonings took ar in Chicago in 1982, Reagan had also stood back, letting Johnson & Johnson take it the lead in the response. Reagan shows up to have been of the view that regional tragedies need to be handled at the local level, deferring come private-sector entities, as soon as appropriate, to manage problems.

Reagan additionally appears to have actually remained quiet after the various other two massive shootings during his presidency, one in Oklahoma and also one in California. The 1986 Edmond, Oklahoma, shooting appears to be the first one in which a disgruntled post-office employee was the killer, the start of one unfortunate tendency of about half a dozen of these shootings that would inspire the phrase "going postal." Similarly, Reagan"s follower and previous vice president, George H. W. Bush, likewise generally avoided do statements around the four mass shootings throughout his administration. A January 1989 shooting in ~ an elementary institution in Stockton, California, which took location in the critical days of Reagan"s tenure, did add to a decision beforehand in the Bush management to worry a ban on the income of what the New York Times defined as "semiautomatic assault rifles."

One shooting in the shrub administration, however, would have an impact on his son"s presidential ambitions. In October 1991, a disturbed male crashed his auto into a Luby"s restaurant in Killeen, Texas, and also began shooting. The man shows up to have specifically target women, killing 15 women and also eight men throughout his rampage. One of the survivors to be Suzanna Hupp, later on a member the the Texas home of Representatives. Hupp normally lugged a .38 revolver v her yet had locked the pistol in her vehicle before beginning the restaurant in compliance v the legislation at the time. Without accessibility to she gun, she could do small as the shooter shoot her and killed both of her parents. Angered by she helplessness, Hupp pressured state lawgiver to pass a regulation that would certainly ease the granting of concealed-carry permits for qualified individuals. While Texas branch Ann Richards opposed together a policy and also had vetoed comparable provisions, brand-new Texas governor George W. Bush — elected in 1994 — signed the bill right into law in 1995. A year later, Hupp ran for and also won a seat in the Texas legislature.

The bill added both to governor Bush"s popularity and to his conservative bona fides; he would be overwhelmingly re-elected in 1998, helping to springboard him come the presidency. To success the GOP nomination, shrub had to get over skepticism ~ above the right based on his father"s reputation together a much more moderate Republican. Procedures like signing the concealed-carry law, linked with his energetic cultivation the conservative intellectuals, helped him get over those doubts.

In an odd coda come the story, chairman George W. Shrub would speak in 2003 at ft Hood, Texas, wherein he identified the visibility of Hupp. Fort Hood, which is near Killeen, would later witness the damaging 2009 massacre. Numerous blamed the high number of casualties top top a military directive — issued as soon as George H. W. Shrub was president — banning weapons on base for most personnel, which superseded the Texas regulation that Hupp had actually pressed for and also Bush had actually signed.

WRITING THE PLAYBOOK

The heritage of presidential quiet in the wake up of most mass shootings involved an finish in the 1990s during the Clinton administration. Chairman Clinton did not weigh in on every among the eight massive shootings throughout his tenure, but these events were now frequent enough to warrant presidential attention. Indeed, the alarming reality is that recent presidential administrations have faced an increasing variety of mass shootings: eight under Clinton, eight under Bush, and 24 under Obama (see graph below).

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In 1993, early on in Clinton"s tenure, a gunman killed six ~ above a lengthy Island Rail road commuter train. This to be the incident that motivated the political job of the "Gun Lady," lengthy Island democratic congresswoman and gun-control advocate Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband in the tragedy. The shooting spree finished when three men — Kevin Blum, mark McEntee, and Mike O"Conner — jumped the shooter if he was attempting come reload. To recognize their heroism, Clinton met v the three men and their households at his Waldorf Astoria suite throughout a visit to brand-new York. This important symbolic gesture was one of the very first uses of this tactic, becoming one the the main pieces that presidential repertoires in the after-effects of mass-shooting events.

Clinton had apparently put some thought right into his response. There had been 10 other massive shooting occasions in that year, Clinton"s very first in office. By meeting v the three men, Clinton hoped to highlight your heroism in the face of depravity, together opposed to having news cycles dwell top top the name and also background that the murderer. In addition, highlighting those who thwarted the killer, rather than just concentrating on those lost in the incident, minimizes the level to i beg your pardon presidential acknowledgment of the shooting perfect the killer"s goals. After ~ all, in the killer"s noble mind, each victim is a "victory," while spotlighting the heroes who quit the killer concentrates attention on the killer"s "defeat." Clinton supplied the chance of the meeting to advice Americans to combat "violence v values."

Unfortunately, the "fight violence v values" technique did not curtail massive shootings — during Clinton"s presidency or in any other since. In fact, things acquired worse in Clinton"s second term after ~ a series of institution shootings in 1997 and also 1998 in Pearl, Mississippi; Paducah, Kentucky; and also Jonesboro, Arkansas. The last to be perpetrated by 2 boys aged 11 and 13, who killed 5 people and also injured 10 much more at Westside middle School. The Jonesboro shooting, with its young perpetrators and also its setup in Clinton"s home state that Arkansas, elicited a more far-reaching presidential reaction, leading Clinton to devote a radio address to the subject in in march 1998. This was the an initial weekly presidential radio address dedicated to the difficulty of fixed shootings.

In the address, Clinton provided the expression that has end up being so commonplace in reactions to shootings the its usage is now derided ~ above Twitter and elsewhere: "Our thoughts and also prayers are with the victims, your families and the entire Jonesboro community." Clinton also listed the alarming frequency the the shootings, remarking the "his is the third incident in the last couple of months entailing young children and violence in schools." as a result, Clinton said, the planned "to questioning the attorney general to find whatever specialists there are in our nation on this terrible tragedy to check out if there are any type of common aspects in this incident and also the various other two, and also whether the indicates any kind of further activity on ours part."

Despite the radio resolve and the directive to the lawyer general, Jonesboro shortly receded into history as brand-new shootings take it place. In June 1998, Clinton checked out Thurston High college in Springfield, Oregon, ~ a shooting in which two kids were killed. In his short remarks, he said he had "instructed the secretary of education and the attorney general to prepare a guidebook to it is in ready once school opens following year in every institution in America, for teachers and parents and also for students together well, to define all the kinds of early on warning signals that deeply troubled young people sometimes give."

Even v the steady pace of massive shootings, the public was still understandably shocked by what occurred in April 1999 in ~ Columbine High School. On a clear spring day, 2 Colorado high-school students set out come methodically shoot classmates, murdering 13 and also then death themselves. This event was too huge and also horrific because that a radio deal with or a short visit with some of the survivors in one more city. Instead, Clinton visited Colorado the next month, just before the Columbine commencement. If there, he gave what appears to it is in the very first major presidential resolve in reaction to a mass-shooting event. In prior of 2,000 people, and joined by first Lady Hillary Clinton, the chairman told the moving story the a talented young African-American guy from his hometown in Arkansas that had passed away too young. In ~ the funeral, the young man"s father had said, "His mother and also I execute not understand this, yet we believe in a God also kind ever before to be cruel, too wise ever before to carry out wrong, for this reason we recognize we will concerned understand it by and also by."

During the speech, Clinton made a number of noteworthy points. First, he recognized that these type of shootings were becoming a recurring phenomenon: "Your tragedy, though it is distinct in its magnitude, is, as you recognize so well, no an isolated event." the also noted that tragedy potentially brings opportunity, saying, "We understand somehow that what taken place to you has pierced the heart of America. And it offers you a opportunity to be heard in a way no one else can be heard." at the exact same time, Clinton warned that the dangers of hatred: "These dark pressures that take end people and also make them murder are the too much manifestation the fear and rage with which every human being needs to do combat." Finally, he broadened on his violence/values dichotomy, exhorting the group to "give us a society of values instead of a society of violence." Clinton closed with the story that jailed southern African dissident Nelson Mandela, who regulated to get over hatred and become the leader the his country. 

All in all, it was a vintage Clinton performance — feeling the pain of the audience, highlighting the prestige of values, and trying to lug the country together in a mutual enterprise. However Clinton was not done through Columbine. Practically a year ~ the shooting, he returned to Colorado to get involved in a rally because that gun control. At the rally, Clinton discussed both Columbine and other shoot sites: "I don"t want any future chairman to have to go to Columbine, or come Springfield, Oregon, or come Jonesboro, Arkansas, or to all the other areas I have actually been." He likewise participated in one MSNBC discussion on total violence to note the anniversary. In making the pitch for extr gun regulations, Clinton to be fitting into the now-established paradigm that Democrats making use of mass tragedies to speak to for much more gun-control legislation. Republicans, by contrast, controversy that added gun regulations would certainly not work, and also instead propose more steps to deal with mental illness.

Another brand-new development v Columbine was in the follow-up. In comparison to the relatively couple of presidential reaction to massive shootings in the past, Clinton did no just cite the tragedy in its consequences and then relocate on. He described Columbine much more than 50 times throughout the remainder of his presidency. In his last week together president, he devoted the January 13 radio deal with to school violence, using the word "Columbine" together a kind of synecdoche for the difficulty of school shootings together a whole. He speak of the federal government information hotlines established, again emphasize the importance of "values," and also touted the need for additional gun limitations to address the problems. Since the preponderance of massive shootings during the Clinton era occurred at schools, his emphasis was mostly on the problem at the college level. Overall, though, Clinton"s reaction to shootings throughout his management in general, and to this horrific shooting in particular, established several precedents for presidential responses to mass shootings walk forward.

George W. Shrub faced the same variety of mass shootings Clinton did, despite he did not feel the have to remark on every tragic incident. This to be his initial response to the in march 2005 shooting at Red Lake Indian preventive in Minnesota. In this incident, a 16-year-old aboriginal American college student at Red Lake High School killed nine people prior to killing himself. Five days after ~ the shooting, shrub spoke about the tragedy in his weekly radio address, noting the he and the an initial lady were praying because that the victims" families. Bush also praised the heroism that Derrick Brun, the unarmed protection guard who tried to avoid the killer, just to be killed himself. And also Bush called for much more resources because that the tribe, bringing in not just the departments of Justice and Education, but likewise the office of Indian work to take part in the response. Still, Bush"s five-day hold-up before responding come the event contrasted with Clinton"s prompt reaction to Columbine and also highlighted a brand-new vulnerability for presidents in the wake of mass shootings: Non-responses, or even slow responses come tragic events, would leave presidents open up to potential criticism.

After the most dangerous mass shooting throughout the shrub administration, there was no concern of a delay reaction. In April 2007, a Virginia technology University an elderly slaughtered 32 civilization on campus prior to taking his very own life. Bush went come the Virginia tech campus the following day and spoke for around 10 minutes at Cassell Coliseum. In his remarks, Bush provided that it was "impossible to make feeling of such violence and suffering." that added, "Those whose resides were taken go nothing come deserve your fate. They were simply in the wrong location at the wrong time. Currently they"re gone — and they leaving behind grieving families, and also grieving classmates, and a grieving nation." Other bush actions had flying flags at half-staff, issuing a proclamation in memory of the victims, and — after reviewing inside what other administrations had done in the consequences of institution shootings — asking crucial cabinet members to participate in a task force to examine ways to avoid such tragedies from following again in the future.

THE OBAMA PROTOCOL

Despite Bush"s efforts, mass shootings continued to afflict our country during Barack Obama"s presidency. The Obama administration endured 24 mass shootings — more than the 3 preceding administrations combined. An ext than any type of previous administration, Obama and his cabinet appeared to have a playbook because that responding come shootings, and also they generally commented on or issued statements about them. Gone were the job of ignoring mass shootings and hoping thereby to starve lock of attention.

On April 3, 2009, just a couple of months right into the Obama administration, a Vietnamese immigrant killed 13 human being at an immigrant services facility in Binghamton, brand-new York. Obama responded with a conventional White residence statement: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the world of Binghamton." The next mass shooting, however, was more complicated and carried a new element into presidential reactions to mass-shooting events. On November 5, 2009, an army psychiatrist eliminated 13 people at fort Hood, a armed forces base in Texas. The killer to be Muslim and also was discovered to have been in contact with the radical al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, that was later killed by one American drone strike in 2011. The killer"s religion, and also his ties to an anti-American terror agitator, raised questions around whether come classify the shooting main actor as a terror attack.

Obama"s early stage reaction, which was consisted of in a speech on indigenous Americans in ~ the department of the Interior, go not address the terror angle. The president acknowledged that he to be going turn off topic and praised "those that live and serve at fort Hood. And also these are men and women who have actually made the selfless and also courageous decision to risk and at times provide their lives to safeguard the remainder of united state on a daily basis." he continued, "It"s challenging enough when we lose these brave american in war overseas. The is horrifying the they have to come under fire in ~ an military base on American soil." 

As more details around the killer and also his terror ties came out, Obama and his team come under fire for not characterizing the event as a terrorist attack. In the wake up of the shooting, Pentagon officials dubbed for addressing the difficulty of "workplace violence," which seemed to be a willful initiative to avoid the terrorism designation. In addition, the fact that army leaders had actually ignored warning signs about the killer"s disturbing behavior and also increasingly anti-American sentiments raised the inquiry of whether political correctness had deterred the army from addressing the case beforehand and preventing the attack.

The ft Hood shooting additionally fell right into a bigger pattern of the Obama management appearing to shot to prevent identifying terrorist assaults as such. A couple of months before Fort Hood, Homeland protection secretary Janet Napolitano had experimented with the hatchet "man-caused disasters" together a euphemism for acts the terror. She protected the term, explaining the the substitution "demonstrates that we desire to relocate away indigenous the national politics of are afraid toward a plan of being prepared for all threats that can occur." In enhancement to the deserved mocking of Napolitano"s circumlocution, there to be a risk to making use of such a euphemism as well. As the heritage Foundation"s James Carafano explained, "By intentionally trying no to usage the T word they operation a serious political risk. If something go happen, they"ll it is in accused of taking their eye turn off the ball and no lot of explanation ~ the fact will suffice."

In the end, if the use of "man-caused disasters" to be mercifully short-lived, the perception the the Obama administration was reluctant to call Islamist-inspired terrorism what it was stuck throughout Obama"s whole tenure. In September 2016, he handle the criticism, calling that a "manufactured" issue, and also explaining that "what I have been careful around when I describe these problems is to make certain that we carry out not lump these murderers right into the exchange rate Muslims the exist around the world, including in this country, who space peaceful, who are responsible, who, in this country, are fellow troops and police officers and fire fighters and teachers and neighbors and also friends." By that point, there had actually been three much more mass shootings that showed up to have been influenced by radical Islamism, as well as nearly 20 more unrelated come terrorism.

POLITICIZED SHOOTINGS

There were so plenty of mass shootings throughout the Obama years that it would certainly be daunting to analyze every one of them in an short article of this length. A few of the cases stand out, however, both due to the fact that of their magnitude and because of the level of the presidential reaction. The first was the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six and also severely wounded Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This shooting arisen not lengthy after Republicans had actually taken ago the house of representatives from the democrats in the 2010 election.

Obama gave short remarks the day around the tragedy. His comments concentrated on Giffords, together this was one of the rare occasions in i m sorry the sit president had a personal connection to among the shooting victims. Explaining that Giffords to be a "friend," Obama said, "It"s not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she constantly does — listening to the hopes and also concerns of her neighbors. The is the essence of what our democracy is every about. The is why this is much more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and also a tragedy because that our entire country." A couple of days later at a memorial organization in Tucson because that the victims, that said, "There is nothing I have the right to say that will certainly fill the suddenly hole torn in her hearts. However know this: The really hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you because that the fallen. We join you in your grief."

Obama"s Tucson speech was moving and not political, yet it seemed to note a change in the national approach. The reaction come the shoot was more politically charged 보다 in the aftermaths of various other mass shootings. Giffords had been "targeted" for defeat by republic in the previous election cycle, and also some on the left suggested that the targeting of certain members because that political defeat remained in some method encouraging really targeting because that physical harm. The appropriate reacted by debunking this and showing the "targeting" was — and tho is — a concept used by both sides. In addition, the killer, regardless of his shave head, was no a skinhead or any kind of right-winger, but just a deranged person whose death spree happened to have actually hit a congresswoman. This showed the extent to which politicians were just as fragile to shooting attacks as the remainder of us.

There were several possible causes because that the raised politicization the shootings that started with the Tucson attack. Among the height culprits to be social media, which led to immediate, and also often intemperate, reactions, adhered to by counter-reactions indigenous the other side. There were only about 17 million Twitter individuals in 2009, Obama"s an initial year in office; through 2011, there to be 118 million. (There room now an ext than 330 million users.) Reporters and also political activists were at an early stage adopters that Twitter, making that a an ext political environment than a representative sample that the populace would have created. There was additionally the truth that a politician had been injured, making the shooter"s motivation appear political. And also the context, in the wake of a bitterly combated election in i beg your pardon the House changed hands, added as well. Finally, there to be the truth that massive shootings were becoming an increasingly regular part of American life. Simply as every little thing else in culture was coming to be politicized, mass shootings were together well.

The following noteworthy shooting was in 2012 at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, only about 20 miles from Columbine. The killer, James Holmes, who had dyed his hair to look prefer the Joker from the Batman comics and movies, gotten in a midnight viewing of The Dark knight Rises and proceeded to death 12 people. Politics gotten in the picture here as well. Abc News investigative journalist Brian Ross reported that there to be a Jim Holmes in Aurora that was a Tea Party member, arguing that over there may have been a right-wing motivation for the attack. The report to be inaccurate — Jim Holmes the Tea Partier was not James Holmes the massive murderer — but the incident indicated the level to which killers" backgrounds were currently being scrubbed and analyzed by reporters and also others in order to recognize their political beliefs and feasible motivations. (Since there is at the very least some proof that massive shooters communicate in your heinous acts in stimulate to gain notoriety, I have intentionally not mentioned any type of of the murderers" surname unless, as in the over incident, it is absolutely crucial for clarity.)

The Aurora shoot transpired during what looked to it is in a complicated re-election project for Obama. His staff notified him around the attack at 5:26 A.M., a rare instance of a president being notified about a mass shooting throughout what space traditionally resting hours. While speak at a project rally in Florida later that day, Obama silenced the crowd in stimulate to attend to the tragedy: "Such violence, such angry is senseless. It"s beyond reason." He likewise issued a contact for unity, remarking exactly how the tragedy "reminds united state of all the methods that we room united together one American family." Additionally, Obama notified flags to it is in flown at half-staff, and both he and also his Republican foe Mitt Romney agreed to temporarily suspend an unfavorable ads in Colorado. 

Obama winner his re-election battle versus Romney, yet he would certainly still be plagued by mass shootings. The one that showed up to affect him the many took place shortly after ~ his re-election, once a deranged man killed 26 people, including 20 very first graders, before killing himself at Sandy Hook Elementary college in Newtown, Connecticut. Obama spoke in Newtown at a vigil because that the victims, expressing his frustration with the continuing scourge of fixed shootings: "We can"t pardon this anymore. This tragedies should end. And to end them, we need to change. We will certainly be told the the reasons of such violence space complex, and also that is true. No solitary law — no collection of legislations can remove evil native the world, or protect against every senseless act of violence in our society. However that can"t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we deserve to do far better than this." He likewise appeared come tear up while providing this admittedly challenging talk.

Obama also took a really hands-on method to comforting the victims" families. Follow to White residence spiritual advisor Josh DuBois"s book, The President"s Devotional, Obama spent hrs with the families. As DuBois put it, "Person after human being received one engulfing hug indigenous our command in chief. He"d say, ‘Tell me about your son....Tell me around your daughter," and also then organize pictures the the shed beloved as their parents explained favorite foods, television shows, and also the sound of their laughter." Later, towards the end of his presidency, Obama would certainly reflect that "I still take into consideration the day i traveled as much as Newtown to satisfy with parental and deal with that ar as the toughest work of my presidency."

Obama"s involvement v victims" families in Newtown was more personal and intimate 보다 in the wake of any other mass shooting. Still, not much adjusted from a policy perspective. Obama supplied the tragedy, coupled with the start of his second term, to do a renewed press for gun-control legislation. There to be a sense early in his 2nd term that this was going to it is in a galvanizing event for gun-control advocates. The tragedy, however, walk not change the simple political dynamics that the total debate, and the initiative failed.

Obama had a personal connection to one of the victims in an additional shooting, this time in Charleston, southern Carolina, whereby a self-avowed white supremacist slaughtered nine African americans at the Emanuel african Methodist Episcopal Church. One of the victims to be the church"s pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney. Throughout Obama"s eulogy for Pinckney, he listed that, despite he did not recognize Pinckney well, they had been acquainted in your youth, "ack when I didn"t have actually visible gray hair," that joked. After ~ his eulogy, Obama led the church in the singing of "Amazing Grace," a moment that to be viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube and that led to plenty of comments about the president"s surprisingly great singing voice.

THE concern OF TERRORISM

Two shootings in the final 15 month of the Obama administration would have substantial political ramifications for both Obama"s legacy and also the 2016 choice to success him. Both were brought out by radicalized Muslims and played right into the narrative of lone-wolf terrorism quite than the recurrent difficulty of "workplace violence" or other species of massive shootings.

The attackers at the first shooting, which developed on December 2, 2015, in mountain Bernardino, California, were a married Muslim couple; the husband to be born in the U.S., and his wife was a Pakistani national. The well-armed and also well-prepared pair killed 14 people, mainly coworkers the the husband. The collaborative nature the the assault made it hard to fit right into the sample of seemingly arbitrarily shootings by deranged loners; it plainly appeared to it is in an Islamist-inspired terrorist attack. Quickly after the attack, Obama spoke around it top top CBS News and also downplayed the terror aspect of the shooting: "The one thing we do recognize is that we have actually a pattern currently of massive shootings in this nation that has no parallel anywhere else in the world." By framing the mountain Bernardino strike as a mass shooting fairly than an plot of terrorism, Obama provided an opening to then-candidate Donald Trump, who was emerging in a overfilled Republican field with his challenging rhetoric versus Muslim immigration. In contrast to Obama"s caution on determining a motive because that the shooting, Trump offered a blunt response the work after the attack: "Take a look. I mean, you look in ~ the names, you look in ~ what"s happened. Girlfriend tell me." Later, Trump to be even much more explicit when he simply said, "I think it to be terrorism."

Six month later, together Trump was advancing toward the GOP nomination and also a loss matchup versus Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, over there was another mass shooting v a Muslim perpetrator the roiled the presidential race. In this case, an American-born Muslim, that may have actually been a closeted homosexual, shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people prior to finally gift shot and also killed through police. The politics were even more complex in this case, mixing together gun control, psychological instability, Islamist terrorism, homophobic violence, and also other hot-button problems into a complex and toxicity stew. Candidate Trump gone into the fray through a generally controversial tweet: "Appreciate the congrats because that being appropriate on radical Islamic terrorism, i don"t desire congrats, I desire toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!" beginning the tweet through gratitude to pendant who dubbed him right, quite than indigenous of comfort for the victims, to be a striking departure from the viewpoints of previous presidents, who frequently emphasized their role as comforter in chief. Trump would likewise later resolve the issue of LGBT security in his decided at the Republican national Convention, pledging that he would certainly "do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and also oppression the a hateful, international ideology , think me."

Obama, for his part, to be a little an ext direct this time, perhaps concerned that tiptoeing roughly the inquiry of terrorism can hurt Hillary Clinton in her initiative to success him. Obama took trip to Orlando four days ~ the attack, together with Vice chairman Joe Biden, to fulfill with and also comfort survivors and also families of the victims. If there, he spoke to the press and also acknowledged not only Orlando, but also San Bernardino, together terrorist attacks, saying, "iven the fact that the last two terrorist assaults on ours soil — Orlando and also San Bernardino — were homegrown, lugged out it shows up not by external plotters, not by huge networks or sophisticated cells, but by deranged individuals warped by the hateful propaganda the they had actually seen over the Internet, then we"re walking to need to do much more to avoid these type of events from occurring." in spite of Obama"s brand-new willingness in his last year in office to talk about the fact of lone-wolf Islamist terrorism, Trump won the choice at the very least in component because both Obama and also Clinton seemed to find for any feasible alternative explanation to avoid acknowledging the Islamist components of this mass shootings.

A restricted TOOLKIT

It is much too shortly to understand if the Trump management will surpass the Obama administration"s tragic document of 24 mass shootings in 2 terms, but Trump"s presidency has already witnessed the worst mass shoot in American history. On October 1, 2017, a 64-year-old man — quite old contrasted to the profiles of other mass shooters — killed 58 people prior to killing himself at a country-music festival in las Vegas. This assault was disturbingly fine planned: The killer, equipped with multiple weapons, shooting his victims from the window of his hotel room and also monitored the hallway outside his room via cameras he had actually placed over there earlier. Trump accordingly called the shoot "an action of pure evil" and lavishly praised the bravery of the police who at some point stopped the killer. He also traveled to las Vegas and also met v victims and medical staff at the city"s University medical Center.

Four month later, an ex-student in ~ Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland, Florida, killed 17, prompting the students there to rally for new gun measures. This shooting was specifically horrific provided details that emerged about the numerous warning indicators that the killer had actually exhibited. Concerned calls come the police and also the FBI in breakthrough did little, and also even an equipped sheriff"s deputy top top the basic waited outside, failing to connect the killer. In this case, trump tweeted condolences yet otherwise do no windy statement top top the day of the shooting, prompting USA Today"s Ryan müller to note that "ormer presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton make public comment the very same day together mass school shootings during their time in office." Later, Trump organized a usually well-reviewed "listening session" with shooting survivors in the White House, and traveled come Florida, wherein he went to victims in ~ the hospital, and also the sheriff"s office.

We can"t yet know how Trump will certainly respond to possible mass shootings because that the remainder of his presidency. What us do know is the the binary concern of even if it is presidents have to say anything in the after-effects of a massive shooting shows up to it is in no much longer applicable. Obama"s propensity to provide some type of statement ~ every shooting, coupled through Trump"s propensity to comment on most significant developments via Twitter, means that the expectation is currently that presidents must react. Because that a president not to mention a massive shooting would now appear strange and also callous.

But even this conversation of whether a president have to acknowledge a mass shooting through a explain highlights just how minimal the presidential toolkit is for dealing with this disturbing aspect of modern-day American life. Most presidential reaction to fixed shootings have taken the form of rhetoric. Past the an option of whether to recognize the event, over there are likewise the questions of format, content, and location: must the president worry a statement, offer a push conference, offer a major speech, or, significantly these days, placed out a tweet? In regards to content, need to the focus be top top the victims, the heroism that the an initial responders, or ~ above potential policy changes the president would choose to see brought out? must the chairman visit the location? If so, need to he to visit a memorial service, fulfill with an initial responders, lull the victims, or some combination of every three?

Even v these varied options, the fact remains the no president has actually been able to acquire to the love of the matter and implement, or even offer, compelling policy solutions to the problem. Policy alters at the federal level have been minimal and also do not appear to have lessened the potential because that these kinds of attacks. In ~ the same time, there has actually been some progress at the community level, especially nationwide efforts to secure schools and also make them more difficult targets. Schools hold constant drills come prepare because that active-shooter situations, install locks and buzzers managing access, and in some situations allow details staff come be equipped in bespeak to quickly respond to a threat. Over there is proof that some shooters have actually been deterred indigenous school assaults by these brand-new security measures. Rancho Tehama Elementary college in Corning, California, locked itself under in simply 47 secs in an answer to a November 2017 threat, thwarting a planned institution shooting prior to it can begin. But efforts such together these, showing development at the neighborhood level, highlight just how difficult it is because that the federal federal government to attend to the problem. Furthermore, when the variety of school-shooting deaths had actually been reasonably low in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the 2018 Parkland tragedy showed that hardening the schools can do only so much to stop determined and also damaged individuals from leading to destruction.

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Furthermore, also if the number of school shootings had actually been going under in recent years, the number of mass shootings has not been. Various other soft targets such as churches and also concerts are likewise the web page of disastrous tragedies, and also it is difficult to secure every potential target in a totally free and modern society. Still, the progression made at hardening schools says that, while imperfect, the ideal solutions to troubles at the neighborhood level will also be uncovered at the community level. Ultimately, the answers will certainly come from teachers who determine potential threats, parental who are willing come stop and ask concerns of possibly dangerous children, police who respond easily to threats, and also brave people who room willing come intercede and stop strikes when they can.

Mass shootings reflect some of the deepest difficulties confronting ours post-modern society: household breakdown, alienation, and the ns of community. Presidents thrust into responding to these situations face problems that cannot be solved by the federal plan levers at their disposal. Because that all their power and influence, the president"s many effective duty in the wake up of massive shootings is come leave national politics aside and also act as comforter in chief, speaking for a upper heart nation. Still, presidents have to be cautious in what they say. As Virginia Tech"s Robert Denton placed it, "You want it to it is in authentic yet not political." even if a president manages come walk that line in the eye of his staff, the partisan nature of our society way that not everyone will agree. This hyper-politicization that the populace, coupled with the frequency that shootings, raises a brand-new question because that presidents going forward: have the right to they quiet credibly serve as comforter in chief as public frustration grows, and also America searches because that answers to this far-too-frequent tragedies?