Not everyone in Roseburg, Oregon, is glad that President Barack Obama will visit the town Friday. The president was expected to travel to Roseburg after a mass shooting last week to comfort the survivors and families of those killed. However, opinions are divided in Roseburg about Obama’s gun policies, and gun rights supporters planned to protest during the president’s visit.
At least one parent of a student who survived the shooting said he will not meet with Obama, according to the Associated Press. The student said she does hope to meet with the president.
“He's not wanted here. He's coming here purely to push his garbage, and we don't want it,” Michelle Finn, who is helping to organize the protests, told the AP.
The protests are expected to take place on intersections near the airport where Obama's helicopter will touch down. In the days after the shooting at Umpqua Community College, it was widely reported that Douglas County, where Roseburg is located, is home to many gun owners who believe that more guns, not fewer, are needed to solve the problem of mass shootings.
The issue of guns on the Umpqua Community College campus had been a topic of discussion for months before the shooting, and faculty and staff had debated whether to arm campus security officers, the AP reported. On the morning of the shooting, just one unarmed security guard was on patrol.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin is an outspoken proponent of gun rights and has rejected Obama’s gun control laws in the past. After 26 people were killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the sheriff said he would not comply with any of the Obama administration's gun control laws.
In the wake of that shooting, Obama announced a list of 23 executive actions he would take to address gun violence. His push for universal background checks failed in the Senate in April 2013. But now after the Oregon shooting, Obama is weighing using his executive authority to expand background checks on gun purchases.
In news conferences after last week’s shooting, Hanlin said that he does not want to politicize the issue of gun ownership right now. But Obama said in his speech last Thursday that “this is something we should politicize.”
Douglas County commissioners released a conciliatory statement Thursday welcoming the president. “Regardless of our differences with the president on policy issues, we await the president's arrival and look forward to his show of support” for a grieving community that is enduring “immeasurable” heartache, said Commission Chairwoman Susan Morgan, according to the AP.
The president’s official schedule shows no public meeting or speech during the visit, and the White House says he will meet privately with survivors and families.