A gunman in Oregon killed 9 people and wounded many others in shooting at Umpqua Community College. In the wake of such tragedies we often turn to social media for nearly instantaneous updates on what is know about the event. Unfortunately, that often leads to misinformation and confusion as truth gets mixed with error and rumor.
In an attempt to help dispel and clarify some of the claims being made I’ve put together what we know so far. There is still much we do not know about this mass killing, and even most of what we know is tentative so I’ll update this article as necessary.
Did the killer target Christians?
According to the father of Anastasia Boylan, an 18-year-old freshman who was shot and had to undergo surgery to remove a bullet from her spine, the killer asked his victims to stand up and declare their religion.
Anastasia’s father said in an interview with CNN, “’Are you a Christian?’ [the killer would ask them]. ‘If you’re a Christian stand up.’ And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them.”
Kortney Moore, 18, also says the killer was asking people to stand up and state their religion before shooting them.
Did President Obama say that prayers were not enough and that we should “politicize” this tragedy?
Yes. During a press conference, President Obama did say that prayers were not enough, said that we should politicize the issue, and called for stricter gun control laws:
Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's 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 — next week, or a couple months from now.
We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months. . . . “it cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm to get his or her hands on a gun.”
And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out: We need more guns, they’ll argue. Fewer gun safety laws.
Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country—they know that's not true. We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws—including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.
There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don't work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours—Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.
And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize
Did the police kill the shooter?
(UPDATED October, 5) A medical examiner made the determination that the shooter killed himself when police arrived at the scene.
Was the killer an atheist, a conservative, a terrorist sympathizer, a skinhead, mentally ill?
Speculation about the killer is based solely on social media documentation that appears to be linked to the killer.
On a dating site called “Spiritual Passions” under the username “IRONCROSS45” he listed his religion as “Not Religious, Not Religious but Spiritual.” He also listed under “political views” that he was “conservative, republican.”
He was also a member of several groups on the dating website, including: “Doesn’t Like Organized Religion,” “Left-hand Path,” “Magick and Occult.” The Left-hand Path, an umbrella term for a variety of occult practices, is often associated with Satanism.
A Myspace page linked to the killer show him holding what appeared to be a rifle. Another other postings were sympathetic to the Irish Republican Army and featured masked gunmen and logos.
As NBC News notes, “The IRA is a predominantly Catholic paramilitary group which waged a bloody three-decade campaign to make Northern Ireland an independent republic separate from Great Britain. It was responsible for terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland and England, including an attempt to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by bombing a hotel in 1984. More than 3,600 people were killed in the armed conflict.”
On the dating site, the killer listed that he listened to punk music. His username may be connected to the punk bank named Iron Cross, which adopted the skinhead look. (The killer was also described by neighbors as wearing skinhead-style attire.) But so far there is no confirmation that the killer, who identified as “mixed-race” was a skinhead.
There is currently no information that suggests he was diagnosed as being mentally ill. (UPDATE: 5:00 pm, October 2) His mother reportedly wrote on a medical forum that she had an “Asperger's kid” and told neighbors her son had “mental issues.” It is also claimed that she told neighbors that her son had attended a special school for pupils with special needs. An Oregon newspaper also claimed that the killer attended the Switzer Center, which specializes in students with behavioral issues (the killer’s name was on a list of graduates). Asperger’s isn’t a mental illness, but a developmental disorder.
Note: If there are other questions about this incident that should be clarified, please leave them in the comments.