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President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed profound “sadness and anger” at the Charleston church shooting as well as deeply personal frustration that America’s political climate makes it virtually impossible for now to tighten restrictions on who can buy firearms.
“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,” Obama said in the White House briefing room, Vice President Joe Biden standing at his side.
“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,” the president said. “But it’d 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.”
Throughout Obama’s remarks, Biden stood grim-faced, his hands clasped in front of him, fingers laced, with an a expression of grief on his face. The vice president, whose elder son died of cancer earlier this month, looked worn.
It was Obama’s 14th statement on a mass shooting since taking office, according to CBS News’s Mark Knoller, the closest thing to a presidential records keeper in the White House press corps.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times,” Obama said Thursday.
President Barack Obama says the Charleston church mass shooting could happen because the alleged killer “had no trouble” getting a gun. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
“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,” he said.
The president had previously called the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut “the worst day of my presidency” and the failure of lawmakers in the aftermath to adopt a modest package of restrictions on guns “probably the most disappointing moment I’ve had with Congress.”
But his remarks on Thursday suggested that he has become resigned to the political reality that legislative action is not possible, for now, in the face of opposition from Republicans who hold both houses of Congress as well as from some Democrats.