President Barack Obama addressed the nation during a press conference on Thursday and shared his thoughts on the tragic shooting in Charleston.
He revealed he and First Lady Michelle Obama know many members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church and knew Rev.Â Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims, personally. He called the crimes “senseless murders” and called the church “a sacred place in the history of Charleston and America.”
“To say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and the community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and sadness and the anger that we feel,” he said.
“Any death of this sort if a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place where we seek solace and peaceâ€¦a place of worship.”
Crowds have been gathered outside of the church for hours to mourn the loss of the six men and three women who were shot to death during their weekly prayer meeting on Wednesday night with a prayer vigil.
The suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, allegedly sat and prayed with the group for an hour before he gunned them down because they were black.
“I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions tat tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make speeches like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times,” he said.
“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.Â Now is 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. It is in our power to do something about it.”
He also noted that the racial implications of the shootings are heavy.
“The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history,” he said. “This is not the first time black churches have been attacked and we know that hatred across race and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”