Addressing the shooting deaths at a black church in Charleston, S.C., President Obama condemned the politics surrounding gun control legislation and called for Americans to do something about gun violence.
It’s a call he’s made before.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” the president said Thursday in the White House briefing room. Innocent people, he said, again were killed because “someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
Despite numerous mass shootings in recent years, the divisive politics surrounding gun control have prevented major gun laws from being passed. Obama has made at least 14 public statements after a shooting attack, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News. Of those, about 11 were domestic incidents.
Nine people were fatally shot Wednesday night at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Congregants were meeting for a Bible study and prayers session when a gunman, identified by authorities as Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Columbia, S.C., opened fire, killing six women and three men.
He has responded to a series of similar high-profile shootings, including the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords outside a supermarket in Arizona, the shooting deaths of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and the movie-theater massacre in Aurora, Colo.
The day of the Newtown shooting, a tearful Obama said: “As a country, we have been through this too many times … . And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
At a White House event in June during which the president answered questions on the social media site Tumblr, Obama said his “biggest frustration” is that “this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to curb gun violence.”
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in a statement Thursday called the Charleston shootings “senseless.” The organization said such incidences “are preventable through sensible solutions that just keep guns out of the wrong hands,” including expanding background checks on gun sales.
In a statement, Vice President Joe Biden said, “we must confront the ravages of gun violence and the stain of hatred that continues to be visited on our streets, in our schools, in our houses of worship and in our communities.”
Obama said Thursday that he knew several members of the Charleston AME church, including the slain Rev. and state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney.
“Any death of this sort is a tragedy,” Obama said. “Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. … Now is the time for mourning and healing. 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.”
Obama acknowledged that it would be difficult to pass new gun control measures given the politics surrounding the issue but said “it is in our power to do something about it.”
“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.”