In the aftermath of the June 17 shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, people everywhere are struggling to make sense of what many, including the police, are calling a racially motivated hate crime. The suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in North Carolina for allegedly shooting 9 people in a black church the night before. Once again, a conversation about hate, racism, and gun control has emerged as people discuss the tragedy. State politicians have weighed in with official statements, tweets, Facebook posts, and TV interviews.
Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley denounced the crime, saying, “The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is hate.”
Riley has long been a proponent of stricter gun control in the state, and said he would continue to push for regulation in the coming days, citing the church shooting as another example of why it’s needed.
“I personally believe there are far too many guns out there, and access to guns, it’s far too easy. Our society has not been able to deal with that yet.”
Riley told the Washington Post the “easy ability for people to gain possession of them no doubt contributes to violent acts.”
Presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham issued a statement that alluded to this crime as hate-motivated. “There are bad people in this world who are motivated by hate,” it reads. “Every decent person has been victimized by the hateful, callous disregard for human life shown by the individual who perpetrated these horrible acts.”
Other prominent figures discussed the social issues surrounding the event much less, focusing instead on the tragic loss the community of Charleston felt.
Governor Nikki Haley (R) spoke Thursday about the impact of the shooting on the state as a whole. “We woke up today,” she said, pausing to keep her voice steady as she began to feel emotional, “and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken.” In her official statement, Haley said, “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R) chimed in on Twitter.
This senseless tragedy at a place of worship-where we come together to laugh,love&rejoice in God's name-is despicable&can't be understood
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) June 18, 2015
In his official statement, Scott said, “We will come together as a city and as a state to lift up those who need us most right now. I hope for their sake, and for the people of Charleston, that the perpetrators of this terrible crime are swiftly brought to justice.”
Many politicians spoke of their relationship with one particular victim of the shooting. South Carolina House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford (D) tweeted about mourning his friend, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the shooting.
— Will Whitson (@WillWhitson) June 18, 2015
Senator Pinckney was my friend for over 20 years. I’m speechless, heartbroken and angry. God grant his family some peace right now.
— Todd Rutherford (@RepRutherford) June 18, 2015
State Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R) said, “He was a talented and well-respected senator who represented the people of his church, his community and his state, with great character and a servant’s heart.”
Senate Minority Leader Nikki G. Setzler (D) spoke at a Senate session about his friendship with Pinckney, his calm nature, big stature, and strong presence. “But what stood out more than his big frame and his booming voice, was that astronomically large heart and the love he had for his fellow man.”