The deadly South Carolina church led to calls Thursday for tougher gun-control laws, even though the shooting suspect was already breaking state law by bringing a firearm into a church without permission.
“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,” President Obama said Thursday at the White House.
“At some point, it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it,” he said.
Nine parishioners were killed Wednesday at the historically black AME Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The president said he knew several people who attend the church, including one of the victims, pastor and Democratic state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney.
“Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence reacted to a statement from Rep. Mark Sanford, South Carolina Republican, by blaming the shooting on weak firearms laws and racism.
“No, Mark Sanford, yesterday’s mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church as not an ‘outlier’ or ‘out of place,’ ” the group said on its Facebook page. “It is the product of overly permissive gun laws and deep-seated racial animosity, both of which you have helped to foster in South Carolina.”
Mr. Sanford said Thursday on CNN that the deadly shooting was “out of character for Charleston, for South Carolina.”
“It does not make sense. It is an outlier. It immediately needs to be dealt with,” he said. “Again, you’re left in disbelief. Obviously thoughts and prayers are with the families affected.”
Gabby and Mark Giffords, founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued a statement decrying “gun violence.”
“Once again, a senseless act of gun violence has brought terror, tragedy and pain to one of our communities. And once again, gunfire and bloodshed has visited one of America’s houses of worship,” they said in the statement.
South Carolina law prohibits concealable-weapon permit holders from carrying at churches unless given “express permission by the appropriate church official,” but that law failed to prevent the shooting suspect from bursting into the church late Wednesday during a Bible study session.
The white suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was captured Thursday at a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina. He received a .45-caliber pistol for his birthday in April, Reuters reported.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” Mr. Obama said. “It is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics of this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it’d be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.”
The president declined to make specific gun proposals, saying this was a time for mourning.
“There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place where we seek solace and peace,” Mr. Obama said.
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