President Barack Obama today decried the deaths of nine people at a prayer meeting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, which caused gun rights advocates, already filling the social Web with preemptive defenses of the Second Amendment via the popular #2A hashtag, to go off.
Here’s what Obama said, in a statement at the White House:
“We as a country need to acknowledge that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” said the president, as Vice President Joe Biden stood solemnly by his side.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. 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’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. 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’d 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.”
Dylann Storm Roof, 21, entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church around 8 p.m. on Wednesday and opened fire on a prayer meeting. Authorities say the violence from Roof, who is white, was racially motivated. In his Facebook profile, he’s seen wearing a jacket “decorated with the flags of two former white supremacist regimes, in apartheid-era South Africa and in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe,” reports the Times.
Six women and three men were killed. Roof reportedly reloaded five times, according to a surviving witness.
The shooting has again brought up the heated debate about gun control and gun rights. Obama was immediately accused of pushing a political agenda by those pushing the opposite political agenda:
Twitter user Chana, whose bio states, “Here 4 politics,” replied to the White House with this. Another user has a remark similar to many:
— Chana (@Dis_labeledVet) June 18, 2015
— Personal SR (@StacyRippy) June 18, 2015
Many, many people have taken up the argument that if those churchgoers brought guns to their prayer meeting, they could have quickly “eliminated the violent threat.” Here’s a representative tweet:
My guns don’t murder people, I will use them to protect the innocent by eliminating violent threats. #2A
— Larry Brown (@LarryB_in_OK) June 18, 2015
Many more take issue with Obama’s assertion that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” They point to the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and other places around the world. Here’s one of many that mention Hebdo:
Obama said no shootings in other country. Really? Paris w/ Charlie Hebdo? Kenyan mall shooting, Afghani school shooting. Norway 2011? #2A
— David LaPell (@DaveLapell) June 18, 2015
Speaking locally in Brooklyn today, Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t mention guns in his remarks, but said he would send NYPD to some of the city’s historically black churches. He also focused on racism and mental health:
“I want everyone to know there’s no place in New York City for this kind of hatred, and that we, through the NYPD, have increased our resources directed at protecting African-American churches in this city as a precaution.” De Blasio went on to stress the need to be “more aggressive about dealing with the question of mental health, and de-stigmatizing it, and…discussing and taking the actions we need on mental health in this city and in this country.”