Pro-gun mum unswayed by shooting at daughter's college

Mum of Oregon student who escaped shooting argues for more arms, illustrating the complexities of US gun control.

    Pro-gun mum unswayed by shooting at daughter's college
    Christina Cobb joined hundreds of people on Friday to jeer Obama as his helicopter touched down in Roseburg [Reuters]

    Earlier this month, Christina Cobb nearly lost her 17-year-old daughter Sarah.

    On October 1, Sarah was only in her fourth day of classes at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon when she heard a loud boom.

    "I thought maybe it might be a textbook falling on the floor or a desk getting run into a wall," Sarah says.

    "I look out the window and there's two girls sprinting away from the building."

    In the adjacent classroom, Christopher Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old student, had just fired a weapon.

    Sarah realised what was going on and told her teacher: "We gotta get out of here, that was a gunshot.

    "The look of fear and terror on her face is something I'm never going to be able to forget."

    Sarah and other students sprinted down a hallway and out of the building. She survived, but nine people did not, in yet another gun massacre at a US school.

    Christina Cobb, 41, was at home that morning in Roseburg and got a text from her daughter. There had been a shooting at the college, it read.

    "I don't think I've ever been that scared before," Christina tells Al Jazeera.

    But Sarah was alright. Mother and daughter found each other at a local fairground where students were being bussed. Cobb hugged her daughter tightly and wept.   

    That day, as details of the shooting were still emerging, US President Barack Obama seized the opportunity to lecture the country and politicians on the need to pass tighter rules on gun possession, something Congress has failed to do during his tenure.

    "It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun," he told reporters at the White House. "This is something we should politicise."

    Christina, who had nearly faced every parent's worst nightmare, was livid. "It was disgusting to me," she says of the president's remarks. "He totally went at it the wrong way."

    Complexities and contrasts

    If you ever want to know why introducing new federal gun legislation has been so difficult in the US, there is probably no better example of why than the story of the Cobb family.

    They are Republicans, own guns, and even though they are personally scarred by the Umpqua tragedy, they are totally against any new legislation that makes it harder to get one.

    So much so, that Christina joined hundred of people on Friday to jeer Obama as his helicopter touched down in Roseburg on his way to meet with families of the Umpqua victims.

    Cobb's husband and son weren't there. They were hunting.

    The complexities and contrasts surrounding the national gun-control debate are even more stark when you consider where they live.

    Oregon is viewed as a very left-leaning state. It allowed gay marriage before the US Supreme Court did, just this past summer, and pot is legal.

    Oregon voters haven't backed a Republican presidential candidate since 1984.

    Yet, there are plenty of conservatives like Cobb who want more guns, not less, in the hands of Americans.

    "If more people were carrying concealed [weapons], I think that would have prevented the situation [at Umpqua] from going as far as it did," Christina argues.

    Oregon's gun laws reflect the same uneasy coexistence between people like Cobb and Obama.

    At Umpqua, for instance, a student can carry a gun with "written authorisation," according to the college's student handbook.

    However, the University of Oregon, one of the state's largest public universities, bans all firearms on campus, even though state law allows for the exact opposite.

    Cobb argues that's one of the biggest problems. Rather than squabble over new laws, "we need to fix what's already there," she says.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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