On late Thursday morning local time, a mass shooting took place at Umpqua Community College, in Douglas County, Oregon. A total of 10 people were killed, and nine injured. Situated three hours south of Portland, Umpqua has a student body of 3,300 full-time students, and 16,000 part-time. CBS News has identified the shooter as Chris Harper Mercer. After an exchange of fire with law enforcement, an officer in the field reported to a dispatcher that the “suspect is down.” According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the suspect is deceased.
You can watch KOIN News (Portland) reporting here.
Oregon has a rate of gun fatalities slightly above the national average
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon residents were killed by firearms at a rate of 11 per 100,000 people in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. That’s slightly above the national average. States with the highest rates include Alaska and Louisiana, at 19.8 and 19.3 respectively; while Massachusetts and Hawaii have some of the lowest rates, with 3.1 and 2.6.
Umpqua Community College allows guns on its grounds, but not in its buildings
In 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the Oregon University System’s longstanding ban of firearms on college campuses, allowing those with concealed carry permits to bring weapons on university grounds.
The following year, the Oregon Senate considered a bill that would have again prohibited the carrying of guns onto school, college, or university grounds in the state. That legislation lost by a single vote. The state Senator who represents the city where Umpqua Community College is located was among the lawmakers voting against the measure. From the Oregonian:
Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, characterized the proposal as a “solution in search of a problem.”
He asked: “Is there an issue with violence in schools? Yes.” In most cases, Kruse said the violence is committed by teens who have obtained a weapon illegally.
“This is purely a political move.”
The day after the vote, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education took up the issue, setting a policy that allows guns on campus, but bars them from college buildings and sporting venues. Umpqua Community College upholds this ban, making an allowance for those “expressly authorized by law or college regulations.”
‘Excruciating’ audio of first responders confrontation with the shooter is circulating
The audio, released two hours after the shooting, reveals that the attack was centered in one classroom. “Somebody is outside one of the doors, shooting through the doors,” an operator says. “We’re exchanging shots with him, he’s in a classroom,” an officer reports. He adds that the gunman was armed with a “long gun” — a rifle — before saying that the suspect was “down.”
The White House expresses frustration on gun control
As the news broke in Washington, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during the daily briefing that the issue of gun control has not fallen on the administration’s priority list, but that President Barack Obama is “quite realistic that we’ll need to see a fundamental change in terms of the way the American people communicate this priority to Congress before we’ll see a different outcome in the legislative process.”Politico
Oregon passed legislation in 2015 to require background checks for all gun sales — but not without a fight
In August, Oregon became the 12th state to institute universal background checks for all gun transfers, including private gun sales between individuals, at gun shows, and sales arranged over the internet. That was quickly followed by a mass demonstration of gun owners on the State Capitol’s steps and claims by some gun dealers that they would refuse to perform the checks.
Umpqua Community College is located in Roseburg, Oregon., which is in Douglas County. In April, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said it would be impossible to enforce recently passed state laws extending background checks to private sellers. “This law is not going to protect citizens of Oregon,” said Hanlin.
A prominent Oregon gun group blames shooting on “gun-free zones”
The Oregon Firearm Federation is a prominent gun rights group that has successfully litigated for the right to carry weapons on college campuses. Following the news of today’s shooting, the group’s Facebook page reprinted Umpqua’s “Safety & Security” policies, lamenting that the college prohibits guns in campus buildings. “Gun free zones are death traps,” wrote one commenter. “People are sitting ducks and at the mercy of evil.”
There was a debate over arming guards at the college
Joe Olson, who retired as president of Umpqua Community College in June, told the Associated Press that the school employed a single unarmed security guard at any one time, and that there was a contentious debate over whether to equip the guard. Olson added that local law enforcement agencies led the school in three active shooter training drills in the past two years.
One eyewitness’s description of the attack:
Kortney Moore, 18, from Rogue River, was in her Writing 115 class in Snyder Hall when one shot came through a window. She saw her teacher get shot in the head. The shooter was inside at that point, and he told people to get on the ground. The shooter was asking people to stand up and state their religion and then started firing away, Moore said. Moore was lying there with people who had been shot.The News-Review
This is the second school shooting in Roseburg in ten years
The Oregonian reports:
In 2006, Roseburg High freshman Vincent Leodoro shot fellow student Joseph Monti four times in the back while both were in the school courtyard. Monti survived.
Leodoro was convicted of intentionally shooting Monti with a semiautomatic pistol loaded with hollow-point bullets.
As a result, Roseburg-area institutions, including Umpqua Community College, made plans for how to handle and try to prevent active shooter scenarios.Roseburg hit twice by school shootings; last one in 2006
The local sheriff is involved in the Oath Keepers militia, and once sent a letter to Vice President Biden warning him “not to tamper with the 2nd Amendment”
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin is involved in the local chapter of the staunchly pro-gun rights Oath Keepers militia, according to the group’s county coordinator. Rob Price told The Trace that while Hanlin is not an official member, he does come to meetings, and gives guidance to the chapter on gun laws and Second Amendment issues. “I would say he’s active,” Price said.
The Oath Keepers are made up of current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel. (Sympathetic citizens from other occupations can sign on as “associate members.”) Those who declare allegiance to the militia “declare that they will not obey unconstitutional orders,” the group’s website states, “such as orders to disarm the American people.”
According to local news outlet KPIC, in 2013 Hanlin sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden in 2013 stating that he and his deputies would not enforce legislation expanding background checks in Oregon to private gun sales. The bill, defeated that year, passed this spring. In the letter, Hanlin said, “Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings.”
This letter serves two purposes. First, to make a formal request that you NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment. Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings. Any actions against, or in disregard for our U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights by the current administration would be irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people.Sheriff: ‘I will NOT violate my constitutional oath’
First elected in 2009, Hanlin is currently serving his second four-year term as sheriff. He spoke at a news conference a few hours after today’s shooting.
“It’s been a terrible day,” Hanlin told reporters. “At this point, it’s a very active scene. It’s a very active investigation.”
At least one armed student was on campus but chose not to intervene
John Parker Jr., a student at Umpqua Community College and a concealed handgun carrier, was studying with his fellow military veterans when the gunman opened fire, but they chose not to get involved.
Here’s what he told MSNBC:
If there was something we were able to do, we were going to try to do it. Luckily we made the choice not to get involved. We were quite a distance away from the actual building where it was happening, which could have opened us up to being potential targets ourselves. Not knowing where SWAT was on the their response time, they wouldn’t know who we were, and if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were the bad guys.
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