Gun-rights advocates on Friday protested President Obama's visit to Roseburg, Ore., where he will meet families of the victims of last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College.
Around 300 people gathered to protest Obama before his arrival in Roseburg, according to The Register-Guard newspaper. Demonstrators held signs saying “Go Away” and “Obama Free Zone.”
Opponents and supporters of Obama lined the motorcade route as he traveled to the site of the meeting.
The shooting at Umpqua Community College last week left 10 dead — including the suspected shooter — and seven injured.
On the same day of Obama’s visit, a gunman killed one and wounded three at a college campus in Arizona, according to officials. Two were shot in another incident in student housing at Texas Southern University, The Associated Press reported.
The Roseburg shooting reignited a contentious debate over the nation’s gun laws. Many residents of the small, rural community have vented anger at Obama for using the shooting to push for stricter gun control measures.
“It’s unconscionable to me that he would take the pain and the agony of people who just lost a loved one and basically say, no matter what you say and what you think, I’m going to use your personal tragedy for his own political agenda,” Michelle Finn, an organizer with the group Defend Roseburg — Deny Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama to travel to South Pacific island to work on memoir: report Sanford: 'Testosterone can get you in trouble' Trump: Conservative lawmakers, groups 'saved' Planned Parenthood, ObamaCare MORE, told CNN. “That’s the problem that this community has.”
Just hours after the shooting last Thursday, Obama said gun violence “is something we should politicize.”
“This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America,” he said. “We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”
Hours before Obama’s departure on Friday White House officials announced that he is considering new executive actions on gun control in response to the shooting.
But the White House said it would not use Obama’s Roseburg visit as a platform to push his gun control plans. The president is not expected to make public remarks during his Oregon visit.
“The trip would not be about politics, but that trip would be about merely consoling the families of those who were so profoundly affected by that tragedy,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Thursday.
Finn said that Roseburg should have the chance to mourn and heal before entertaining a debate over gun laws.
“If the president wants to come and pay his condolences and pay his respects, that’s wonderful, that’s admirable,” she said. But she added the majority of people in Roseburg and the surrounding areas believe “this is a mental health issue. ... This is not a gun issue.”
- This story was updated at 3:57 p.m.