President Barack Obama responded angrily Saturday to the mass shooting that took three lives, including that of a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., over the Thanksgiving holiday, calling the country’s recurring outbreaks of gun violence “not normal.”
“We can’t let it become normal,” Obama said in a statement. “If we truly care about this – if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience – then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.”
Obama, who has voiced rising dismay as he has been forced to repeatedly respond to mass shootings during his presidency, sounded notes of deep exasperation about yet another moment of fear and loss at a time devoted to thanks and family.
“The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence – people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time,” he said. “And yet, two days after Thanksgiving, that’s what we are forced to do again.”
Without calling explicitly for new laws, Obama invoked the name of the slain police officer, from the University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus, to plead with leaders to show the will to address such shootings.
“May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save – and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing,” the president said.
Previous large-scale shootings have not, however, reshaped the country’s polarized debate over gun control, and there was little reason to believe that the Republican-controlled Congress would take up new measures to restrict access to firearms.
The Colorado shooting did insert two highly contentious issues, gun control and abortion, into a presidential campaign that has been dominated by a debate over national security and Middle Eastern refugees since the terrorist attacks on Paris this month.
By late Saturday morning, though, the response to the violence was notably one-sided: The Democratic presidential candidates all issued statements noting that they stood with Planned Parenthood, while few of the Republican candidates offered any response.
“Today and every day, we #StandWithPP,” Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote on Twitter, a reference to Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland said much the same. “I strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work it’s doing,” Sanders said. “I hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences.”
Republicans have largely been restrained about quickly responding to mass shootings in the United States, unwilling to weigh in on the role of access to guns.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas wrote on Twitter Saturday morning: “Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs.”
Cruz has been among the most vocal Republican candidates pushing to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood, even threatening to close down the federal government over the matter.
The issue drew significant attention at a Republican presidential debate in September, when several candidates condemned the group and Carly Fiorina described a video of “a formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
There is no such scene in the videos captured by an anti-abortion rights group, the Center for Medical Progress, but Fiorina, a former technology executive, refused to back off her claims. She accused Planned Parenthood of waging a “propaganda” attack against her and improved in the polls. But she has since receded in a contest, dominated by Donald Trump and Ben Carson, that has moved away from the abortion issue.