President Barack Obama said the killer who opened fire at a black church in South Carolina violated a “sacred place” in America’s history and the mass shooting once again raised troubling questions about racial tension and easy access to firearms.
In what has become a grimly regular task for the president, Obama offered condolences for the grieving, a promise of help in the investigation and condemnation of senseless violence.
“Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy,” Obama said Friday at the White House. “There’s something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace.”
Obama said he’s had to make such statements “too many times” while in office and that the nation must reckon with the fact that such violence doesn’t occur in other developed countries.
Obama’s taken the role of the nation’s chief consoler in the aftermath of a mass shooting more than a dozen times since coming into office. The policy response has lagged. Gun-control legislation he proposed after the 2012 mass killing at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., foundered.
“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,” he said. Obama added that he recognized that the current political climate forecloses most options to act on gun violence, “but it’d be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.”
The shooting Wednesday at historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston is being probed as a hate crime, Justice Department officials said Thursday. The suspected gunman has been identified by police as Dylann Roof, 21. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the suspect is in custody. CNN reported that Roof, who is white, was captured across the border in North Carolina.