Obama calls deaths in South Carolina church shooting ‘senseless murders’

Updated 5:17 PM EDT, Thu June 18, 2015
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, makes a statement regarding the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015 at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Authorities have arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Lexington County, South Carolina, as a suspect in last night's deadly shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people.
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, makes a statement regarding the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015 at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Authorities have arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Lexington County, South Carolina, as a suspect in last night's deadly shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people.
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NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 19:  In this image from the video uplink from the detention center to the courtroom, Dylann Roof appears at Centralized Bond Hearing Court June 19, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Roof is charged with nine counts of murder and firearms charges in the shooting deaths at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. (Photo by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images)
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NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 19: In this image from the video uplink from the detention center to the courtroom, Dylann Roof appears at Centralized Bond Hearing Court June 19, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Roof is charged with nine counts of murder and firearms charges in the shooting deaths at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. (Photo by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

President Barack Obama on Thursday called the nine deaths in the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting “senseless murders” and suggested more gun control is needed in the wake of the tragedy.

“Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy,” said Obama, as Vice President Joe Biden stood alongside him. “There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace.”

Obama spoke of the personal connections he and first lady Michelle Obama had to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where they knew several members.

“We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others gathered in prayer and fellowship, was murdered last night,” Obama said. “And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.”

Obama declined to comment on specific details of the investigation, which currently centers on 21-year-old suspect Dylann Roof, a white man who was taken into custody late Thursday morning in Shelby, North Carolina, authorities have said.

But the President said the shooting should refocus attention on preventing potential killers from getting their hands on guns.

RELATED: 2016 on hold in South Carolina

“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,” Obama said at the White House. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.”

02:22 - Source: CNN
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