Obama: We Need to Shift How We Think About Gun Violence Collectively

"And it is in our power to do something about it."

President Obama issued remarks Thursday in regard to the murders of nine Christians at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina the prior evening. Not being "constrained about the emotions" he is feeling in the wake of losing a friend in the shooting, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the president intimated the need for gun control.

"I've had to make statements like this too many times," Obama 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."

He continued:

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. 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.

Because the victims are black and the shooter is white, Obama said it "obviously… raises questions about a dark part of our history." Recalling the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. after four little girls were killed in the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing 50 years ago, "They say to each of us… black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream."

Vice President Joe Biden also issued a statement. He, too, singled out guns and racism:

[A]s a nation we must confront the ravages of gun violence and the stain of hatred that continues to be visited on our streets, in our schools, in our houses of worship, and in our communities.