US & World

9 crucial things Obama said about the Dallas shootings

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Speaking at his final NATO summit, U.S. President Barack Obama spent much of his time addressing recent violence — the sniper killings of five police officers in Dallas and the deaths of two men at the hands of law enforcement in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. During his speech, he spoke of race relations, violence, violence and gun control.

 

1. A nation not so divided

"As painful as this week has been, I firmly believe America is not as divided as [some people claim]... There is sorrow. There is anger. There is confusion about next steps. But there is unity in recognizing this is not how we want our communities to operate. This is not who we want to be as Americans."

 

2. Concerns about discriminatory policing are valid

"Americans of all races and all backgrounds are also rightly saddened and angered about deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the larger persistent problem of African Americans and Latinos being treated differently in our criminal justice system."

Later, during the Q&A, Obama pointed out that conservative politicians and pundits have begun to acknowledge the issue — Republican and Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently said "It is more dangerous to be black in America" — and that means the country can actually address the problem.

3. We don't completely know the Dallas shooter's motives...

Asked whether it was an act of domestic terrorism, a hate crime or the work of a mentally ill man, Obama said:

"I think it's very hard to untangle the motives of this shooter. As we've seen in a whole range of incidents with mass shooters, they are by definition troubled… What triggers that, what feeds it, what sets it off, I'll leave that to psychologists."

4. ...But we cannot let the actions of a few define us

"I think the danger is that we somehow suggest that the act of a troubled individual speaks to some larger political statement across the country. It doesn't… The demented individual who carried out the attacks in Dallas is no more representative of African Americans than the shooter in Charleston was representative of white Americans or the shooters in Orlando or San Bernardino were representative of muslims. They don't speak for us."

5. The audacity of hope

"One of the things that gives me hope is how the majority of Americans reacted: with empathy… As tough, as hard, as depressing as the loss of life was this week, we've got a foundation to go on. We have to have confidence that we can build on those better angels of our nature."

6. Examining our own behavior

"We have to make sure that all of us step back and do some reflection to make sure the rhetoric we engage in is constructive not destructive — we're not painting anybody with an overly broad brush, not constantly thinking the worst in other people [instead of] the best."

7. We've come a long way

"When we start suggesting somehow there's this enormous polarization and we're back to the situation in the '60s, it's just not true. You're not seeing riots. You're not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully."

8. Guns, guns...

"With respect to the issue of guns, I am going to keep on talking about the fact that we cannot eliminate all racial tension overnight. We are not going to be able to identify… every madman or troubled individual who might want to do harm against innocent people. But we can make it harder for them to do so."

9. ...And more guns

"We are unique among advanced countries in the scale of violence we experience. I'm not just talking about mass shootings, I'm talking about the hundreds of people already shot this year in my hometown of Chicago — the ones we just consider routine. We may not see that issue as connected to Dallas but part of what's creating tensions… [is] that police have a really difficult time in communities where they know guns are everywhere. If you care about the safety of our police officers, you can't set aside the gun issue and pretend that's irrelevant."

Obama said there is a way to talk about gun control that is consistent with the Second Amendment but he acknowledged that even mentioning the subject is polarizing. He also blamed the lack of significant gun control legislation, in part, on a "very intense minority" as opposed to the "majority of Americans who think we can be doing better in terms of gun safety."