Obama condemns U.S. gun violence in wake of Charleston shooting

President Barack Obama called for the nation to acknowledge the realities of gun violence in America in an address concerning the tragic shooting at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Now is the time for mourning and for healing,” Obama said. “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: “I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now, but it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it. And for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

This is the fourteenth time Obama has been required to speak out about mass shootings during his presidency, according to CNN. 

Dylann Storm Roof, 21, the suspected shooter, was apprehended on Thursday morning nearly 250 miles away from Charleston, in Shelby, North Carolina. Carson Cowles, the suspect’s uncle, told reporters that Roof received a .45 caliber gun in April from his father on his 21st birthday.

Nine parishioners died as a result of the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), including three men and six women; eight died at the scene, and the ninth died at the nearby Medical University of South Carolina. 

The shooting began at 9:05 p.m. on Wednesday evening, roughly 50 minutes after surveillance cameras captured Roof entering the building.

“There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship,” Obama said. “Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African-Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery.

“When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.”

Additional FBI agents are being dispatched to join those already at the scene, according to the president. Moreover, the Justice Department has plans to conduct a hate-crime investigation.

Gregory Mullen, Charleston’s police chief, told reporters on Thursday morning that he believes the shooting was a hate-crime. A female survivor told NBC News that the gunman told her son: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country—and you have to go.”

“The good news is,” Obama added, “I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome.”

“That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.”

Photo via Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.