Just hours after police captured and arrested the suspected perpetrator of the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, President Barack Obama spoke at the White House about the “sadness and anger” he felt upon learning of the attack on a historically black church that left nine members dead.
Noting that he can’t legally reveal details of the ongoing investigation into the crime, he spoke candidly about his frustration at having to address yet another mass shooting.
“I have had to make statements like this too many times. Communities have had to endure tragedies like this too many times,” he said. “We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”
The President continued by calling on leaders in Washington to “come to grips” with their resistance on gun control laws, saying, “It is in our power to do something about it.”
Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people killed Wednesday night, campaigned unsuccessfully in the South Carolina Senate for stricter mental health checks for gun purchases.
President Obama also acknowledged the role of race in the shooting at the historic African American church, noting that it has become a new chapter in a long line of attacks on congregations of color, including the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1960s.
“We know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals,” he said. But he expressed optimism that this hatred could be “overcome.”