Obama renews call for gun control, Haley seeks death for shooter
Washington, June 20 (IANS) US President Barack Obama made another call for gun control as South Carolina’s Indian American Governor Nikki Haley sought death penalty for the white young man who gunned down nine people at a historic black church.
Obama’s second call for gun control and a national conversation to end the scourge of mass shootings in America came as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, who has confessed to Wednesday’s horrific massacre with vague plans “to start a race war”, appeared in court via video on Friday.
“We need a change in attitude,” Obama told the annual meeting of the US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, with the country “shocked and heartbroken” by Wednesday’s shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Now is the time for mourning and for healing,” he said on Thursday, after the shooting.
“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.”
Obama then acknowledged that with Republicans in control of the Congress, any meaningful action was unlikely in the face of a powerful gun lobby.
But he said on Friday he wasn’t resigned to inaction in Congress.
“We have to move public opinion,” Obama said. “We have to feel a sense of urgency. Ultimately Congress will follow the people.”
Obama had last made a push to tighten gun control laws in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
The lack of action in Washington, he said on Friday, wasn’t an excuse to ignore a problem that took the lives of 11,000 Americans in 2013 alone.
“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 it is somehow politicising the problem,” he said.
Obama also later repeated to the donors that mass shootings happen way too often and “it’s not enough for us to express sympathy; we have to take action”.
Obama also marvelled at the willingness of relatives of the shooting victims to forgive the man accused of the killings, calling it “an expression of faith that is unimaginable but that reflects the goodness of the American people”.
Roof, who has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, was expressionless, as a judge set a $1 million bond on the possession of a firearm count but no bond on the murder charges.
Roof spoke only a few words in response to the judge’s questions and did not enter a plea.
He showed no emotion as family members of his victims addressed the court and Roof, expressing both anger and forgiveness.
However, calling the shooting spree a hate crime, Haley said on Friday that Roof should face the death penalty.
“This is an absolute hate crime,” Haley, a Republican, said in an interview on Friday with the “Today” show.
“And when I’ve been talking with investigators as we’ve been going through the interviews, they said they looked pure evil in the eye yesterday. Without question this is hate.”
“We absolutely will want him to have the death penalty,” she said.
Louisiana’s Indian American Governor Bobby Jindal also supported the death penalty for Roof.
“This gunman was filled with hate,” he told reporters shortly after speaking at the “Road to Majority” conference on Friday.