US President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed anger over the “senseless” shooting in a black church in South Carolina and said Americans had to confront the fact that frequent incidents of gun violence do not occur in other advanced countries.
Obama said he and his wife Michelle knew Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the historic African-American church in Charleston, who was killed along with eight others on Wednesday night.
“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 told reporters in a somber statement at the White House.
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Later, he told donors at a Democratic party fundraiser at home of African-American actor Tyler Perry that the shootings were “a reminder that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“If you’re dissatisfied that every few months we have a mass shooting in this country killing innocent people, then I need you to mobilize,” Obama said, urging people to elect candidates who push for change.
Obama has had to play the role of consoler-in-chief after shootings repeatedly throughout his presidency.
Following the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, the president launched an aggressive gun control push, but his efforts largely failed in Congress.
The US Constitution protects Americans’ rights to own a gun, but disagreements over the breadth of those rights often fall along political lines.
“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,” he told reporters.
Obama is unlikely to launch another push for gun control legislation with only one and a half years left in office and the next presidential campaign already in full swing.
At the fundraiser, in a gated neighborhood high above Los Angeles off winding Mulholland Drive, about 250 people paid $2,500 to $33,400 to the Democratic National Committee to hear Obama speak.
His speech – the second of four planned events during a California trip this week – was edged with frustration about issues on which he had been thwarted by a congressional politics.
Obama said he would spend time during his last 18 months in office urging people to work harder in their own communities on issues such as gun control, climate change and racial polarization.
“It’s nice to have dialogues around race, but me making a good speech – and I’ve made some good speeches on the subject – that’s not going to solve the problem,” he said.