Kopel: "Fact check: Obama claim that ‘I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings; this just doesn’t happen in other countries.’"
Great stuff from David Kopel, this time in the Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog:
This morning in Paris (!), President Obama said at a news conference, “I mean, I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings; this just doesn’t happen in other countries.” Is his statement true?
In one sense, the answer would be “yes.” President Obama’s statement was in the form of: “Every time X happens, I say Y.” As a historic self-description of Obama’s own rhetoric, Obama’s statement is mostly true, but only in recent years. When President Obama was running for national office in 2007 through November 2012, he never used mass shootings to compare the United States unfavorably with other countries. Nor did he use mass murders as an occasion to make political demands for gun control. This was his rhetorical approach from the Virginia Tech murders in April 2007, through the Aurora theater murders in July 2012.
However, as President Obama explained to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012, “After my election I have more flexibility.” This was an accurate prediction, and not just about foreign relations. After winning reelection in November 2012, President Obama in December 2012 used the Newtown, Conn., murders as the basis to make gun control the primary focus of his political efforts through April 2013. He has promised that gun control will be his top priority during his final year in office. When commenting on mass murders in the United States, President Obama has repeatedly claimed that such crimes do not occur in other countries.
Thus, the President’s Dec. 1 statement is mostly accurate as a self-description of what he frequently says, at least from December 2012 onward.
Is the president’s statement about “other countries” accurate? No. For example, on Nov. 20, 2015, mass shooters attacked a hotel in Mali, murdering at least 19 people.