After the White House announced that President Obama would deliver remarks about the massacre in Charleston, CBS’s Mark Knoller, who’s quite assiduous in his White House record keeping, made a striking observation. This will be, Knoller noted, “at least the 14th time” Obama has made a public statement in response to a shooting attack.
And when the president spoke, he took a moment to acknowledge the familiarity of the circumstances.
“[L]et’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. And 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. But it would 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.”
To the degree that facts and evidence still matter, what the president said is entirely accurate. In the developed world, gun-related murders in the United States aren’t just more common – we lead the world by a large, almost farcical, margin.
When Americans might be prepared to “reckon with” this reality is unclear.
In the same remarks, Obama provided some important context about the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church itself:
“Mother Emanuel is, 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 worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America. […]“Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before – from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times – to give hope to generations of Charlestonians. And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.”