Obama on the Charleston shootings: Sympathy alone 'is not good enough'

ObamaREUTERS/Kevin LamarqueU.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about gun violence during an address to the United States Conference of Mayors in San Francisco June 19, 2015.

President Barack Obama opened his remarks to a room of mayors by describing another tragedy that has “become far too commonplace.”

“Racism remains a blight that we have to combat together,” President Obama said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in San Francisco on Friday.

The Charleston shooting, as Obama described, left nine churchgoers dead after “congregates invited a stranger into their place of worship” who later turned on them. “We should be strong enough to acknowledge this,” he said.

More than 11,000 people died from gun fire in 2013, the president noted, but Congress did not pass “commonsense” gun regulation after the 2012 attack in Newtown left 20 children dead.

“No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence,” Obama said. “But we might have some more Americans with us.”

The crowd of 300 mayors, many of whom have had to comfort the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, cheered loudly.

Obama at US mayor conferenceBiz Carson/Business InsiderPresident Obama speaking at U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting in San Francisco on June 19.

Obama spoke strongly about the need for conversation that doesn’t politicize the issue or demonize gun owners. Despite the multiple mass shootings during Obama’s tenure — Charleston, Aurora and Newtown are a few examples, the president said the public opinion on the issue still has to move, and people need to feel a sense of urgency before anything will change at the Congressional level. Obama cited gay marriage as one example.

“At some point, we have to reckon with what happens. It is not good enough simply to show sympathy,” Obama said. “You do not see murder with this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency in any other advanced nation on earth. I refuse to act that this is the new normal or pretend that it’s simply sufficient to grieve.”

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