President Obama floated the idea of greater gun control during a White House statement Thursday in the wake of the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston.
Police say Dylann Storm Roof, 21, entered the historical black church Wednesday night and opened fire, killing nine people.
“Now’s the time for mourning and for 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,” Obama said.
“It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it, and 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.”
“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,” Obama said.
Roof, who is from Lexington, S.C., was reportedly given a .45-caliber handgun as a birthday present by his father. It is unclear if that is the same gun he used in Wednesday’s massacre. Roof was arrested Thursday morning in North Carolina.
During his speech, Obama also addressed the racial aspect of the shooting. Roof, who is white, reportedly said before the attack, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
The few pictures of Roof that have been uncovered also indicate that race may have been a motivator. One picture shows Roof leaning against his car which bears a pro-Confederacy license plate. Another shows Roof wearing a jacket that bears a flag from pre-Apartheid South African and Rhodesia.
“The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history,” Obama said Thursday. “This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”
This post has been updated with more information.