No easy answers in wake of shootings, just lots of questions

PORTLAND, Ore. - In the wake of a mass shooting at a school in Connecticut, and a deadly shooting at the Clackamas Town Center here in Oregon, there are lots of questions being raised.

Are our schools safe? Does our nation have a problem with guns? Should the government do something? How can we protect our kids?

They are issues we have been looking at for a week now - ever since a young man walked into the Clackamas Town Center with an AR-15 rifle and then a few days later a gunman went on a killing spree at an elementary school in Connecticut.

It is difficult to make sense of these types of crimes. On Wednesday, we explored some of the topics that have been on people's minds since last week - how this is impacting our children, what schools are doing to keep students safe and whether it's time to put measures in place in response to gun violence in our nation.

What Local Teens are Thinking

We stopped by Beaverton High School to listen in on a classroom discussion about last week's events. Everything was on the table - topics like school security and mental illness. But, like the rest of the country, the gun issue is what got students talking the most. KATU's Lincoln Graves reports:

What Parents Should Know About School Safety

So many parents immediately thought of their own kids' safety when reports of the school shooting in Connecticut first started pouring in. Plus, in just the last week there have been several school threats in our area.

To help get some answers to some of your questions about school safety, we asked Sgt. Tim Sessions with the Portland Police Bureau's Youth Services Division to stop by our studio for a couple of roundtable discussions (you can watch them below). He has some great insight and advice for concerned parents:

Roundtable #1

Roundtable #2

The Gun Debate

Now of course, the issue of gun violence in our nation has taken center stage in the past week. It's a topic that has been under discussion for years, but in the wake of the deadly school shootings in both Oregon and Connecticut it has become even more heated.

Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama asked a team led by Vice President Joe Biden to come up with a concrete plan by January to reduce gun violence in the United States.

Among the president's goals: close the so-called "gun show loophole" across the country that allows people in some states to buy guns from private dealers without a background check.

That loophole doesn't exist at gun stores, however, where buyers already must pass a background check. So in Oregon and Washington, what exactly does that background check entail and what cause would the state have to deny someone a weapon? KATU Reporter Dan Tilkin takes a look:

The president's announcement underscores the urgency the White House sees in formulating a response to the Newtown shooting. The massacre has prompted several congressional gun rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms, and there is some concern that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown shooting eases.

Obama said it was "encouraging" to see people of different backgrounds and political affiliations coming to an understanding that the country has an obligation to prevent such violence.

Appealing to gun owners, Obama said he believes in the Second Amendment and the country's strong tradition of gun ownership. And he said "the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible."

Here locally, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked his staff to bring forward a range of options to improve school security, expand access to mental health and address firearms regulations. It is all but certain that gun control will be on the table when the state Legislature convenes Jan. 10.

Healing at the Clackamas Town Center

Shoppers are back at the Clackamas Town Center and retailers are getting business again.

It's been a week since 22-year-old Jacob Roberts made his way through the mall with an AR-15 rifle and a hockey mask on his face. He shot and killed two people, seriously wounded a teenage girl and then took his own life.

Those who were there that day will never forget what happened, especially those who have jobs at the mall and have had to work through their emotions so they can get back to making a living.

Mall employees are getting support in a lot of ways, however, which is helping. KATU Reporter Anna Canzano shows us how shoppers and the community at large are pulling together:

On Wednesday, a small group got together at the mall to sing carols to try to lift everyone's holiday spirits. KATU Photojournalist Bob Foster captured the magic: