President Barack Obama pushed for gun control legislation to be passed Friday afternoon, two days after a white male entered a historically black Charleston church and opened fire, killing nine.
"[A]s much as we grieve this particular tragedy, I think it's important, as I mentioned at the White House, to step back and recognize these tragedies have become far too commonplace," Obama said while addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in San Francisco.
"More than 11,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone — 11,000. If Congress had passed some common-sense gun safety reforms after Newtown, after a group of children had been gunned down in their own classroom — reforms that 90 percent of the American people supported – we wouldn’t have prevented every act of violence, or even most," the president continued. "We don’t know if it would have prevented what happened in Charleston. No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence. But we might still have some more Americans with us."
"We might have stopped one shooter," Obama added. "Some families might still be whole. You all might have to attend fewer funerals."
Obama said "we should be strong enough to acknowledge this" without "suggesting that any debate about this involves a wild-eyed plot to take everybody’s guns away."
The president also addressed the political difficulties of passing gun control legislation — especially with a Republican Congress.
[sharequote align="center"]"It is not good enough simply to show sympathy."[/sharequote]
"Ultimately, Congress will follow the people," he said. "And we have to stop being confused about this. At some point, as a country, we have to reckon with what happens. It is not good enough simply to show sympathy."
"You don’t see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency, in any other advanced nation on Earth," Obama continued. "Every country has violent, hateful, or mentally unstable people. What’s different is not every country is awash with easily accessible guns. And so I refuse to act as if this is the new normal, or to pretend that it’s simply sufficient to grieve, and that any mention of us doing something to stop is somehow politicizing the problem."
The president said the U.S. needs to have a serious conversation about how to address gun violence. He added that there needs to be a change in attitude across the board, among everyone.
"[W]e have the capacity to change, but we have to feel a sense of urgency about it. We, as a people, have got to change," the president said. "That’s how we honor those families. That’s how we honor the families in Newtown. That’s how we honor the families in Aurora."
The comments Friday were similar to remarks Obama made one day earlier. Speaking in the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, the president said he has "had to make statements like this too many times" in part because "someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun."
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