US President Barack Obama launched a heart-felt lament that gun attacks were “becoming the norm” after a gunman shot and killed a student at an Oregon high school on Tuesday, the latest in a spate of US shootings.
The gunman, said to be another student armed with a rifle, also died in the incident at Reynolds High School in the northwestern US state, taking his own life according to media reports.
“The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people,” Obama said during a Tumblr online forum on Tuesday.
“It’s not the only country that has psychosis, and yet we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else.
“What’s the difference? The difference is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses.”
Witnesses at the school in Oregon reported students and teachers cowering in classrooms as the shooting unfolded. One teacher also suffered non life-threatening injuries, police said.
As the drama unfolded, live television pictures showed the increasingly common sight of students filing out of the school with their hands on their heads.
“My daughter was just shaking and scared,” said one mother. “She was huddled in the corner of a room with some students and had the lights out,” she told KOIN 6 television.
“When a SWAT team person unlocked the door to her room she freaked out, thinking that it was the shooter coming in,” the mother, identified as Becky, told the broadcaster.
Troutdale police chief Scott Anderson said officials had tentatively identified the shooter, but would not immediately release the name.
He added that, during the school search, another gun was found, and its owner taken into custody. He stressed that this appeared totally separate from Tuesday’s shooting.
This was the fourth shooting in three weeks in the former Wild West region of the United States.
On May 23, Elliot Rodger, the son of a Hollywood director, went on a gun rampage at a college campus in Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles, killing six people and then himself.
On June 5, a gunman killed one person and injured two others on a college campus in the northwestern US city of Seattle, in what the local mayor denounced as America’s “epidemic of gun violence.”
Then on Sunday, a couple with possible links to anti-government militia shot dead two police officers execution-style in a Las Vegas pizza restaurant, before killing another civilian nearby and then themselves.
Previous mass shootings, like that which killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, have triggered intense debate about America’s relatively lax gun control laws.
But the latest wave had triggered only muted public debate, possibly due to the scale and regularity of the killings or the lack of concrete progress generated by previous protests.
The school where Tuesday’s shooting occurred has some 2,800 students, although many of them finished classes last week, so it was unclear how many were on site.
National and local television news channels covered the scene live, showing large numbers of armed police scrambling to lock down the school after reports of shots fired around 8am.
But about an hour later, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said the situation was “stabilised.”