Obama: Mass Shootings “Don’t Happen In Other Advanced Countries”
President Barack Obama addressed the massacre of nine black worshippers in a Charleston, South Carolina church last night with a frank acknowledgment that nations with strict gun control laws almost never suffer from mass shootings.
In a short but poignant White House speech, Obama, who was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, lamented that he has “had to make statements like this too many times.” The president then noted the historical significance of Emanuel African Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in the South.
“There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace in a place of worship,” Obama said. “Mother Emanuel is that in fact more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African-Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground, because its worshippers worked to end slavery… This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.”
Obama then moved on to the elephant in the room—the need for more stringent gun control. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, guns claimed 32,351 American lives in 2011. On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for gunshot wounds in emergency rooms across the nation. Each day on average, 55 Americans kill themselves with guns, and 46 people are killed or injured by accidental firearm discharges.
The US gun homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 other developed nations, and American children are killed by guns 11 times as often as their peers in other most-developed nations. Guns are the second-leading cause of accidental death for young Americans.
Then there are the mass shootings, which the president was compelled to confront yet again.
“Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times,” he said. “Innocent people were hurt because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting a gun. Sometime as a country we’ll have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence doesn’t happen in other advanced counties. It doesn’t happen in other places with this frequency. It is within our power to do something about it.”
The president stressed the need to “shift how we think about the issue of gun violence,” an assertion he has made after previous mass shootings that always seem to result in a fleeting moment in which strident calls for common sense gun control measures are quickly quashed by firearms industry lobbyists and the tens of millions of American gun owners and advocates they influence.
Millions of Americans believe gun ownership is their “God-given” right, and the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights enshrines “the right to bear arms.” No other advanced democracy bestows such a “right” upon its citizens, and America has paid a heavy price for it. Since 2006, there have been 209 mass shootings, defined as four or more victims, in the United States. This year alone, there have already been 11. Among the deadliest:
- January 30, 2006: Postal worker Jennifer Sanmarco, 44, kills 7 people, including 6 co-workers, in Goleta, CA.
- June 1, 2006: Desmond Turner and James Stewart kill 7 relatives in Indianapolis, IN.
- April 16, 2007: Sueng-Hi Cho, a mentally ill student, kills 32 people at Virginia Tech University.
- October 7, 2007: Sheriff’s deputy kills 6 people at a party in Crandon, WI.
- February 7, 2008: Charles Lee Thornton, 52, kills 6 people at a Kirkwood, MO city council meeting.
- September 2, 2008: Isaac Zamora, mentally ill, kills 6, including a sheriff’s deputy, in Alger, WA.
- December 24, 2008: A man dressed as Santa Claus kills 9 people at his former in-law’s home in Covina, CA.
- January 27, 2009: Ervin Lupoe kills his wife, 5 young children, and himself in Wilmington, CA.
- March 10, 2009: Severely depressed 28-year-old Michael McLendon kills 10 relatives with an assault rifle.
- March 29, 2009: Robert Stewart kills 8 people in a Carthage, NC nursing home.
- April 3, 2009: Jiverly Wong, 41, kills 13 people at a citizenship class in Binghamton, NY.
- November 5, 2009: Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13 at Ft. Hood, TX.
- January 19, 2010: Christopher Speight, insane, kills 8 relatives and friends in Spout Spring, VA.
- August 3, 2010: Omar Thornton kills 8 co-workers in Manchester, CT.
- January 8, 2011: Jared Loughner kills 6 and wounds Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, AZ.
- July 7, 2011: Robert Dantzler kills 7, including his wife, her parents and their daughter in Grand Rapids, MI.
- August 7, 2011: Michael Hance kills 7 people in Copley Township, OH.
- October 12, 2011: Scott DeKraii kills 8 people at a beauty salon in Seal Beach, CA
- December 25, 2011: Azizolah Yazdanpanah, facing foreclosure and divorce, kills 6 in Grapevine, TX.
- April 2, 2012: One Goh, mentally ill, kills 7 at Oikos University in Oakland, CA.
- July 20, 2012: James Holmes kills 12 people at an Aurora, Colorado cinema.
- August 5, 2012: White supremacist Wade Page, 40, kills 6 at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI.
- September 27, 2012: Andrew Engeldinger kills 5 people and himself in Minneapolis, MN after losing his job.
- October 22, 2012: Two men kill 6 people during a Park City, TN burglary.
- December 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, kills 27 people, including 20 young school children, in Newtown, CT.
- July 26, 2013: Pedro Vargas, 42, kills 6 people in Hialeah, FL.
- September 16, 2013: Aaron Alexis, 34, kills 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
- May 23, 2014: Sexually frustrated 22-year-old student Elliot Rodger kills 6 people in Isla Vista, CA.
- July 9, 2014: Ronald Haskell, 33, kills 6 members of a family in their Spring, TX home.
- September 18, 2014: Don Spirit kills 7 people, including his daughter and 6 young grandchildren, in Bell, FL.
- December 15, 2014: Former Marine Bradley Stone kills his ex-wife and 5 of her relatives in Souderton, PA.
- February 26, 2015: Joseph Aldridge, 36, kills 7 people in Tyrone, MO.
- May 17, 2015: Nine people are killed in a shootout between members of rival motorcycle gangs in Waco, TX.
And on Wednesday night, 21-year-old Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and sat through an hour-long prayer meeting before opening fire on the congregation.
“I have to do it,” Roof reportedly said to the terrified congregants pleading for their lives. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
In his Thursday address, Obama also acknowledged the long history of deadly racist attacks on black churches in America.
“The fact that this took place in a black church also raises questions about a dark part of our history,” Obama said. “This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked.”
The president then quoted Rev. Martin Luther King, the assassinated civil rights leader who asserted “that we must be concerned not merely with who murdered them but about the system, and the way of life, the philosophy, which produced the murderers.”
Authorities have not yet released the names of the victims of Wednesday’s massacre, but it is known that Emanuel AME pastor and South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a 41-year-old married father of two, is among the dead.
Media outlets reported Roof was captured in Shelby, North Carolina, about 250 miles (402 km) northwest of Charleston, on Thursday morning following a tip from a concerned citizen. Roof was reportedly cooperative when stopped by police.