Saying it was time to “face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division,” Hillary Rodham Clinton called for action Thursday in response to the shooting that killed nine worshipers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.
“Let’s unite in partnership not just to talk but to act," Clinton said in a speech to a large gathering of Latino policymakers in Las Vegas. “As we mourn and as our hearts break a little more … we will not forsake those who have been victimized by gun violence.”
Clinton, who had been in Charleston for a campaign event at a trade school just a few hours before the shooting, made references to other mass shootings in recent years, including the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, and the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
“How many innocent people in our country, from little children to church members to movie theater attendees, how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” she asked.
She did not, however, offer any specific plan for reducing gun violence. Two years ago, after the shooting in Newtown left 20 children and six adults dead, President Obama pushed for tighter background checks on gun purchases, but that effort failed in Congress.
Clinton received standing ovations from a friendly crowd as she spoke to the annual conference of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, part of a several-day swing through Nevada and California for fundraising and campaign events.
In a half-hour speech, she also highlighted her pledges to expand early childhood education and to overhaul the nation's immigration system.
She denounced anti-immigrant rhetoric, which she called "divisive," and mused about the nature of hatred and hate speech.
Officials in Charleston said Wednesday's shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was racially motivated. The suspect, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof, reportedly told parishioners at the church that he wanted to "kill black people" before opening fire.
"This ultimately is about how we treat each other," Clinton said in the final minutes of her speech. "When I hear words of hatred and anger directed at any of our fellow human beings, I ask myself, 'What is motivating that?' Did they not learn the same lessons I did in Sunday school? Did they not sing the same hyms about how we are all one?"
Clinton was scheduled to travel to Reno later in the day for a roundtable with veterans at a VFW hall.
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