President Barack Obama stood in the White House briefing room at midday today, and after consoling those affected by Wednesday’s deadly mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, called for action to “shift how we think about gun violence collectively.”
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” Obama said, expressing horror at the idea that Emanuel AME, where he said he knows several members, was home to such violence Wednesday night.
Speaking bluntly, Obama said, “Once again, innocent people were killed, in part, because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.” Dylann Roof, a 21-year old man from Lexington County was apprehended today in Shelby, N.C., suspected of shooting and killing nine people while they gathered for prayer inside Mother Emanuel.
“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,” the president said. Obama conceded that progress in Washington is hard to imagine, but said it was something the American public should “come to grips with.”
According to data compiled by USA Today dating back to 2006, six of the seven mass killing events in S.C. over that time have been gun crimes–Wednesday’s fatal shooting was the largest and also the first non-family-related killing over that period. S.C. State Law Enforcement Division crime figures for 2013 show 340 murders in South Carolina, more than 71 percent of which were committed using firearms. In 2013, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley appeared in an advertisement for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that sought to stem gun trafficking.
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