ROSEBURG, Oregon — The public must "come together" to figure out how to keep deadly mass shootings from happening, President Barack Obama said Friday. But he emerged from a private meeting with family of the victims of last week's shooting in Oregon to declare: "Today is about the families."
Addressing reporters briefly after the approximately hourlong meeting, Obama said occasions like these always remind him that any child or parent or family member could suffer such a loss.
Immediately after a gunman killed eight students and a teacher at a community college last week, a visibly angry Obama said thoughts and prayers are no longer enough in the aftermath and that the nation's gun laws needed to be changed. He pledged to "politicize" the issue.
But that message didn't sit well in Roseburg, where gun ownership is popular. Hundreds of supporters and protesters gathered near the local airport for Obama's arrival, with signs welcoming him mixed with others advocating for gun rights.
Obama said the families wanted to communicate how much they appreciated the nation's "help, thoughts and prayers."
"I've obviously got very strong feeling about this," he said, saying that at some point the nation would have to unit to figure out how to prevent incidents like these from happening so regularly. On Friday, fatal school-related shootings were reported at colleges in Arizona and Texas.
"We're going to have to come together as a country, but today is about the families," Obama said before walking to his limo.
The stop in Roseburg was a last-minute addition to a previously scheduled weekend trip by Obama to Seattle and California