ROSEBURG, Ore. -- President Barack Obama brought words of comfort and sympathy to grieving families of victims of the shooting rampage in Roseburg.
Obama landed in Eugene at around 11:30 a.m. Friday, along with U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Rep. Peter DeFazio. The group boarded a helicopter that landed about an hour later in Roseburg, where Obama talked privately with family members at Roseburg High School. The president left Roseburg just before 2 p.m.
Following the private meeting, Obama spoke briefly to the press pool about the visit, standing next to Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich. He thanked Oregon and the community for banding together to support the victims' families, and said the families appreciated all of the thoughts and prayers.
"There are going to be moments as we go forward where we're going to have to come together to figure out, how do we stop things like this from happening?" The president said. "I have some very strong feelings about this because when you talk to the families, you are reminded that this could be happening to your child, or your mom, or your dad, or your relative, or your friend. So we're going to have to come together as a country to work on these rights, but today it's about the families and their grief and the love we feel for them."
The president's visit took place in staunchly conservative Douglas County, where many gun owners use their weapons for hunting, target shooting and self-protection.
A Facebook page called "Defend Roseburg - Deny Barack Obama" outlined plans for a protest in advance of the president's arrival.
Protesters, many of whom argued the president was politicizing the tragedy by visiting Roseburg, gathered near the airport three hours before Obama's arrival. Some held signs that said "No Obama" and "Go Home" while others carried holstered guns.
"I think he should stay away," said protester Gary Shamblin of Winston. "He made it very plain, 15 minutes after the shooting happened. I think he politicized it. The bodies weren't even cold."
Many residents say tighter gun laws are not the solution to stopping mass shootings.
Obama supporters also gathered near the airport and Roseburg High School. Some held signs welcoming the president.
Obama's visit to Roseburg was the beginning of a four-day West Coast trip.