Ten people are dead and seven others wounded, according to media reports, after a 26-year-old gunman opened fire Thursday morning with multiple firearms at a community college in southern Oregon. He is among the dead, shot by police to end the latest in a torrent of public mass killings across the U.S. in the past few years. It happened in a classroom building at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
The massacre follows other mass shootings at U.S. college campuses, an elementary school, churches, movie theaters and military bases in recent years. It is the deadliest since the racially motivated shooting rampage in June killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Each incident has fueled demands for more gun control in the United States and more care for the mentally ill.
“Somehow this has become routine,” a visibly angry U.S. President Barack Obama said, addressing the tragedy at the White House in Washington, DC. “We’ve become numb to this.” He called for prayers of concern, saying that the mass killing should move Americans to demand greater gun controls from elected officials.
Bishop Peggy Johnson also called for all people of faith to join in ardent prayer for the victims, their families, the college and its community, during this “awful time of tragic loss, unbearable pain and confusion.” She cited the reported age of the shooter, identified as Chris Harper Mercer, 26, as indicative of a disturbing trend of more troubled, alienated young people wreaking carnage at schools and other venues. Mercer reportedly harbored anger against organized religion.
Johnson responded to eyewitness reports that Mercer asked people if they were Christian. If they said “yes” they were shot in the head, several witnesses reported, but if they didn’t say “yes” they were shot elsewhere.
“If that is true,” she said, “and if we begin to see recurring incidents of such Christian persecution, then it needs to be addressed. Standing up for one’s faith even at the point of death is not just something that happened to our first-century Christian martyrs or happens in other countries. It may be happening here and now more often as well.”
By John W. Coleman
Eastern PA Conference Communications Director