Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday the country has to face “hard truths” about guns and race in the wake of a shooting at a historically black church in South Carolina that left nine dead.
“How many innocent people in our country, from little children to church members to movie theater attendees, how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” the Democratic presidential candidate said during a speech in Las Vegas, alluding to mass shootings a Connecticut elementary school and Colorado movie theater.
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Clinton spoke at a meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, an event that afforded her the opportunity to campaign before a largely supportive crowd of Hispanic politicians. But campaign politics were overshadowed by the late Thursday slaying of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Clinton had campaigned in Charleston earlier on Thursday, and said she learned of the attack after she landed in Las Vegas. As did President Barack Obama earlier in the day, Clinton said this latest incident involving the killing of several people required a reckoning with the country’s history of gun violence.
“In order to make sense of it we have to be honest,” she said. “We have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division.”
The suspect in the shooting, Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was described as an apparent “disaffected white supremacist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Justice Department said it had started a hate crime investigation.
The prospect that race played a role in the shooting hung over Clinton’s remarks. Speaking of critics of immigrants, Clinton said: “When I hear words of hatred and anger directed at any of our fellow human beings I ask myself, ‘What is motivating that?’