President Obama has responded to the news that 9 people were murdered in a racist attack on a historically black church in Charleston, North Carolina.
Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There’s something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace. In a place of worship. 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 worshippers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings they conducted services in secret. When there was a non-violent movement to bring our country 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.
I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. 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.
Obama also condemned his country’s gun laws for their role in the shooting, adding:
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. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing that the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it’d 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.
His statements follow the news that a young white gunman opened fire during a bible study session in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
A suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, has been taken into custody. Pictures of the suspect found online suggest he has an interest in white supremecy: in one he wears a black jacket that prominently features the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia.