President Barack Obama on Friday renewed a push for measures to curb gun violence, in the wake of a deadly shooting in a historically African-American church in South Carolina.
“I refuse to act as if this is the new normal, or to pretend that it’s simply sufficient to grieve, and that any mention of us doing something to stop is somehow politicizing the problem,” Obama said Friday during remarks at the US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco.
“We need a change in attitudes among everybody — lawful gun owners, those who are unfamiliar with guns. We have to have a conversation about it and fix this.”
Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old alleged shooter in the church shooting that left nine people dead Wednesday night, was arrested on Thursday and appeared at a bond hearing on Friday. The Department of Justice said Friday that it is investigating the incident as a possible act of domestic terrorism.
Obama spoke from the White House on Thursday, where he mourned the victims and lamented the fact that it was the 14th time he has addressed the nation after a mass shooting during his presidency. He said Thursday that it was another instance of someone who “wanted to inflict harm” having “no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
On Friday, he said simply grieving for the families is not enough and urged action. He chided Congress for not passing new legislation in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which left 20 children and six others dead. The Senate in 2013 filibustered the most broadly popular measure unveiled in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting — legislation that would have expanded background checks.
“If Congress had passed some common-sense gun safety reforms after Newtown, after a group of children had been gunned down in their own classroom — reforms that 90 per cent of the American people supported — we wouldn’t have prevented every act of violence, or even most,” Obama said. “We don’t know if it would have prevented what happened in Charleston. No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence. But we might still have some more Americans with us. We might have stopped one shooter. Some families might still be whole. You all might have to attend fewer funerals.
“And we should be strong enough to acknowledge this. At the very least, we should be able to talk about this issue as citizens, without demonizing all gun owners who are overwhelmingly law-abiding, but also without suggesting that any debate about this involves a wild-eyed plot to take everybody’s guns away.”
Obama said he thinks Congress will eventually “do the right thing,” despite comments on Thursday that some observers took as “resignation” to the dim political prospects for new gun regulations.
“I want to be clear — I am not resigned. I have faith we will eventually do the right thing,” he said. “I was simply making the point that we have to move public opinion. We have to feel a sense of urgency.”
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