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Obama: US gun laws responsible for mass shootings


Paramedics return to their ambulances after taking patients to Mercy Medical Centre in Roseburg. (AP)
Washington – US President Barack Obama blamed pro-gun lobbies and their supporters on Thursday for the latest gun massacre in the United States, in which 10 people were slain at a rural north-western community college.

Obama called on Americans to demand “common-sense” gun control laws from Congress.

“This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America,” he said.

Speaking in the White House briefing room to respond to a mass shooting for what US news outlets reported was the 15th time of his presidency, a visibly angry Obama took legislators to task for failing to enact laws to help keep guns out of that hands of killers.

Politically powerful gun lobbies

He said anti-gun control positions taken by politically powerful gun lobbies are out of step with public opinion, and said the notion that the US constitution prohibits any regulation of guns “doesn’t make sense”.

He called on voters to demand change: “We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”

Ten people were confirmed dead and seven wounded after a 20-year-old man opened fire on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, authorities said.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said the gunman was dead, too, after a shoot-out with law enforcement officers who responded to an emergency call at 10:38 on Thursday. Authorities believed he had acted alone.

Hanlin said 10 people were confirmed dead and seven injured amid conflicting casualty reports.

Douglas County Fire Marshal Ray Shoufler told broadcaster CNN that the shooter had apparently opened fire inside a classroom in a science building on the isolated, hilltop campus. News reports said that dead and wounded were found in multiple classrooms.

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‘Popping noise’

Cassandra Welding, a student at the college, told CNN she was in a morning class when she heard “a popping noise, almost like a balloon” in a classroom next door.

A classmate opened the door to see what was happening, and was shot in front of her, she said.

“We locked the door, turned off the lights,” she said. “We called 911 and called our parents and loved ones, just saying I love you. We didn’t know what was going to happen, if those were our last words or not.”

Roseburg is 287km south of the state capital Portland, in rural Douglas County.

Umpqua Community College is the county’s only college-level educational institution, Hanlin said. The timber-logging region is a “peaceful community”, Hanlin said.

“This is a huge shock to the entire community, to have this level of crime,” he said.

Umpqua Community College’s website appeared to be offline on Thursday after the shooting. State authorities listed its enrolment at more than 4 600 in 2013. Hanlin said many students are older adults studying to begin new careers.

The shooting was the 45th time a gun was fired in a US school since the beginning of 2015, according to gun-control group Everytown.

Young men with guns massacred 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, 32 people at Virginia Tech in Virginia in 2007, and 26 people including 20 small children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.

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