Hours Before Louisiana Shooting, President Obama Said His Biggest Regret Was Gun Violence
Hours before John Russell Houser opened fire Thursday in a Louisiana theater, killing two and injuring nine others before taking his own life, President Barack Obama called gun violence the biggest frustration of his presidency. The dark coincidence was first reported by Vox.
"If you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient, common-sense gun safety laws, even in the face of repeated mass killings," Obama told BBC.
"If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands."
Obama said the United States is the only advanced country in the world to struggle with repeated mass shootings. "I've had to make statements like this too many times," he said, echoing a refrain he made shortly after the massacre of nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church in June.
Despite claims by the National Rifle Association and their Republican allies that more guns make people safer, scientific research has shown the opposite. A 2014 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded, "access to firearms is associated with risk for completed suicide and being the victim of homicide."
Real life also offers a telling example. Like the U.S. today, Australia was also once bedeviled by the scourge of gun violence. Between 1978 and 1996, Australia experienced 13 gun massacres, each claiming the lives of more than four people. In 1996, after a particularly horrific massacre left 35 dead, the country's Conservative Prime Minister John Howard pushed through tough gun control laws. Gun murder and suicides plummeted, and Australia has not seen one new gun massacre since. Howard detailed his country's own reckoning with gun violence in an op-ed in the New York Times in January 2013.
"In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres — each with more than four victims — causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996," he wrote.
With another massacre on the country's history books, it's unclear whether Obama would make another push to tackle his old nemesis, but with his time as president rapidly running out, the issue seems likely to be left to his successor.
Watch the interview below.