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Clinton speaks out on race and guns after Charleston shooting

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said "we have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division" after massacre in South Carolina.
Hillary Clinton Addresses Nat'l Ass'n Of Latino Elected And Appointed Officials. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty)
Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' (NALEO) 32nd Annual Conference at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter on June 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nev.

LAS VEGAS — Hillary Clinton called on Thursday for action in response to the “horrific massacre” in Charleston, South Carolina, and labeled the killing of nine worshipers at a black church there a “crime of hate.”

Clinton campaigned in Charleston just hours before suspected gunman Dylann Storm Roof allegedly opened fire at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Survivors reportedly said Roof uttered racist remarks before he killed the churchgoers. The Department of Justice has opened a hate crimes investigation into the killing. Roof was taken into custody Thursday morning.

RELATED: Obama: America must grapple with gun violence

Clinton said Thursday she only heard about tragedy upon arriving in Las Vegas, where she addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

“We have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division,” Clinton told the Latino elected leaders. She has historically been a strong proponent of gun control, a touchy issue for many Americans and one that President Obama failed to advance after the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting in 2013. 

“How many innocent people in our country, from little children to churchgoers to movie theater attendees, how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” Clinton said, referring to massacres in Newtown and the Aurora, Colorado.

The former secretary of state made no other mention of guns in her remarks on the killing, nor did she explicitly say what kind of "action" she wanted to see. "Let’s unite in partnership, not just to talk, but to act,” she added. 

In his own response to the shooting, Obama express outrage and called for stronger gun regulations. 

RELATED: How 2016ers are responding to Charleston

Clinton began her morning in Las Vegas by meeting with workers at the Aria hotel, which hosted the conference. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 union is a powerful force in Nevada Democratic politics, and presidential candidates always aggressively seek their endorsement 

“Las Vegas would not exist without the cooks and dishwashers who stand on their feet all day,” Clinton said, earning applause. 

The union endorsed Obama in 2008 and, in that election cycle, fought an occasional nasty ground campaign up and down the Las Vegas strip against Clinton’s campaign. That was led by the union's state director Robby Mook, who is now Clinton’s campaign manager.