THE diocese of Oregon has called for “vigilance, fewer guns, [and] tighter controls” after a gunman opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, on Thursday of last week, killing nine people. The attacker, identified as 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer, later shot himself in a stand-off with Oregon police.
“Gun violence has intruded into too many places where people have always felt safe,” said the diocese in a statement. “As people of God we struggle with how to respond.”
President Obama said that mass shootings, the reporting of them, and the response had “become routine”. The attack was the 45th school shooting this year, and 142nd since December 2012.
Speaking on Friday, Mr Obama said: “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough — it is not enough, it does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America. . . It should not be this easy for those who wish to inflict harm to get their hands on a gun.”
Reports suggest that the attacker, who was armed with six guns and body armour, may have targeted Christians. One 18-year-old student said that Harper-Mercer ordered his victims to stand up and declare their faith before shooting them.
Anastasia Boylan told her family that Harper-Mercer had said: “Because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,” before firing. Ms Boylan was shot in the back and is undergoing spinal surgery.
The Independent reported that Harper-Mercer — who was born in the UK and moved to the US as a young boy — had a profile on the dating website Spiritual Passions, where he described himself as “not religious”, but “spiritual”, and in search of non-religious woman. He was also reported to have been listed on the site’s group “Doesn’t like Organised Religion”.
A further eight guns were found in the attacker’s home. His father, Ian Mercer, told CNN news on Sunday that he could not understand “how on earth” his son could have amassed so many.
A candlelit vigil was held on the campus in Roseburg on the Thursday evening. On Sunday, another 18-year-old survivor, Lacey Scroggins, attended New Beginnings Church in Roseburg. Her father, the Revd Randy Scroggins, who is the Senior Pastor, gave an emotional welcome. The family of 18-year-old Rebecka Carnes, who was killed in the attack, were applauded as they entered the church.