Today, at the White House, President Obama delivered some remarks about the shooting in Charleston.
After expressing condolences to the families and their loved ones, he noted that the tragedy struck especially close to home — as it did for many Americans.
“Michelle and I know several members of Mother Emanuel Church,” he said. “We knew their pastor Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, who, along with eight others gathered together in prayer and fellowship, were murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.”
“Any death of this sort is a tragedy, any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy,” he continued. “There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and peace—in a place of worship.”
And yet, this was no ordinary church, he intoned. The building itself is both historically — and symbolically — significant.
“Mother Emanuel is in fact more than a church,” he said. “This is a place of worship that was founded by African-Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshippers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a non-violent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps.”
“This is a sacred place,” he added.
Finally, he reminded the public that the FBI is on the scene and, with permission from the DOJ, will soon open an investigation as to whether this atrocity was a hate-crime. However, he did not stop there.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” he said. “Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. 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.”
“Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let’s be clear,” he declared “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. And it is in our power to do something about it.”