In the wake of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today vowed to keep fighting for common sense gun control and delivered a blistering indictment of racism in America.
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Speaking at the Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, Clinton said “bodies are once again being carried out of a black church,” referring to the nine people killed inside Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday. The suspect in the shooting, Dylann Roof, has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
“How it could be possible that we as a nation still allow guns to fall into the hands of people whose hearts are filled with hate?” Clinton said, noting that “massacre after massacre” makes the urgency of passing gun control legislation clear.
As a former resident of Arkansas, Clinton explained, she understands that gun ownership is a cultural mainstay. But she said America needs to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of those that would do their neighbors harm.
“It makes no sense that bipartisan legislation to require universal background checks would fail in Congress despite overwhelming bipartisan support,” she said. “It makes no sense that we couldn’t come together to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, or people suffering from mental illnesses, even people on the terrorist watch list. That doesn’t make sense, and it is a rebuke to this nation we love and care about.”
Earlier this week, President Obama said the politics of Washington "foreclose" some gun control legislation. But at the mayor’s conference Friday, he said he was “not resigned” on the issue.
“The president is right -- the politics on this issue have been poison,” Clinton said. “But we can’t give up. The stakes are too high, the costs are too dear, and I am not and will not be afraid to keep fighting.”
But firearms aren't the most pressing problem, said Clinton. A friend of Roof, 21, had said he wanted to start a race war and that he supported segregation.
“It is tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe that in today’s America, bigotry is largely behind us, that institutionalized racism no longer exists,” Clinton said.
But electing a black president didn't eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, education and the economy, Clinton said.
“America’s long struggle with race is far from finished,” she said. “Our problem is not all kooks and Klansman. It’s the joke that goes unchallenged; it’s the offhand comment about not wanting 'those people' in the neighborhood.”
The former secretary of state lauded the families of the Charleston victims, who Friday offered Roof their forgiveness.
“In its way, their act of mercy was more stunning than his act of cruelty,” Clinton said.
She also recognized Debbie Dills, who spotted Roof and called police, vowing, “she didn’t remain silent -- well neither can we.”