President Barack Obama today said that the suspected gunman in a South Carolina church shooting “had no problem getting [his] hands on a gun.”

Obama made the statement during his remarks about the fatal shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Nine people – including pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney – were killed.

The president said he felt heartache, sadness and anger over the tragedy.

“There’s something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace and a place of worship,” he said.

Obama called Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church “more than a church,” noting that the church was founded by African-Americans who were seeking liberty and recalling how the church was once burned to the ground because its worshippers worked to end slavery.

“This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America,” he said.

The president then spoke more broadly about the mass shootings that have plagued the nation in recent history.

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” he said. “Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed, in part, because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”

While Obama noted that now is a time for mourning and healing, he said that America must eventually “reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”


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