President Obama: “I refuse to act as if this is the new normal”

The president spoke at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on Friday. One of the topics was gun violence.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Obviously, the entire country has been shocked and heartbroken by what happened in Charleston. The nature of this attack — in a place of worship, where congregants invite in a stranger to worship with them, only to be gunned down — adds to the pain. The apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together. We have made great progress, but we have to be vigilant because it still lingers. And when it’s poisoning the minds of young people, it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart. […]

More than 11,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone — 11,000. […] At the very least, we should be able to talk about this issue as citizens, without demonizing all gun owners who are overwhelmingly law-abiding, but also without suggesting that any debate about this involves a wild-eyed plot to take everybody’s guns away.[…]

I remarked that it was very unlikely that this Congress would act. And some reporters, I think, took this as resignation. I want to be clear — I am not resigned. I have faith we will eventually do the right thing. (Applause.) I was simply making the point that we have to move public opinion. […]

We need a change in attitudes among everybody — lawful gun owners, those who are unfamiliar with guns. […]

And ultimately, Congress acts when the public insists on action.

Another “normal” that we should not accept: that people of color should always fear for their basic safety. This comment, by David Remnick at the New Yorker, highlights the issue:

No small part of our outrage and grief—particularly the outrage and grief of African-Americans—is the way the Charleston murders are part of a larger picture of American life, in which black men and women, going about their day-to-day lives, have so little confidence in their own safety. One appalling event after another reinforces the sense that the country’s political and law-enforcement institutions do not extend themselves as completely or as fairly as they do for whites.

THAT is what needs to change. Until people of color can feel safe going about their day, until the benefit of the doubt is extended to them … and their children … things will not be right. We need to demand a New Normal for fairness in America and shift public opinion so that protections are extended to all people of all races and genders and sexual orientations.

(Full context of the president’s remarks on gun violence are below …)

Transcript.

President Obama: Obviously, the entire country has been shocked and heartbroken by what happened in Charleston. The nature of this attack — in a place of worship, where congregants invite in a stranger to worship with them, only to be gunned down — adds to the pain. The apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together. We have made great progress, but we have to be vigilant because it still lingers. And when it’s poisoning the minds of young people, it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart.

But as much as we grieve this particular tragedy, I think it’s important, as I mentioned at the White House, to step back and recognize these tragedies have become far too commonplace.

Few people understand the terrible toll of gun violence like mayors do. Whether it’s a mass shooting like the one in Charleston, or individual attacks of violence that add up over time, it tears at the fabric of a community. It costs you money and it costs resources. It costs this country dearly.

More than 11,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone — 11,000. If Congress had passed some common-sense gun safety reforms after Newtown, after a group of children had been gunned down in their own classroom — reforms that 90 percent of the American people supported — we wouldn’t have prevented every act of violence, or even most. We don’t know if it would have prevented what happened in Charleston. No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence. But we might still have some more Americans with us. (Applause.) We might have stopped one shooter. Some families might still be whole. You all might have to attend fewer funerals.

And we should be strong enough to acknowledge this. At the very least, we should be able to talk about this issue as citizens, without demonizing all gun owners who are overwhelmingly law-abiding, but also without suggesting that any debate about this involves a wild-eyed plot to take everybody’s guns away.

I know today’s politics makes it less likely that we see any sort of serious gun safety legislation. I remarked that it was very unlikely that this Congress would act. And some reporters, I think, took this as resignation. I want to be clear — I am not resigned. I have faith we will eventually do the right thing. (Applause.) I was simply making the point that we have to move public opinion. We have to feel a sense of urgency.

Ultimately, Congress will follow the people. And we have to stop being confused about this. At some point, as a country, we have to reckon with what happens. It is not good enough simply to show sympathy.

You don’t see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency, in any other advanced nation on Earth. Every country has violent, hateful, or mentally unstable people. What’s different is not every country is awash with easily accessible guns. And so 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 is somehow politicizing the problem. (Applause.)

We need a change in attitudes among everybody — lawful gun owners, those who are unfamiliar with guns. We have to have a conversation about it and fix this.

And ultimately, Congress acts when the public insists on action. And we’ve seen how public opinion can change. We’ve seen it change on gay marriage. We’ve seen it beginning to change on climate change. We’ve got to shift how we think about this issue. And we have the capacity to change, but we have to feel a sense of urgency about it. We, as a people, have got to change. That’s how we honor those families. That’s how we honor the families in Newtown. That’s how we honor the families in Aurora.

  11 comments for “President Obama: “I refuse to act as if this is the new normal”

  1. JanF
    June 20, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Things will only change when white allies demand change. I am standing up to demand change now. We can’t eradicate the racism that lives in the hearts of those who commit crimes like the one in Charleston and who celebrate the killer as a hero. But we can call it out as not normal and not acceptable.

    We can marginalize them to the point where they are vilified and shunned and, for crying out loud, NOT given the protection of one of our national political parties.

    The Republican Party needs to come to grips with its past, starting with the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon and through the dog whistle politics of Ronald Reagan in Philadelphia Mississippi and the political opportunism of Lee Atwater and his Willie Horton ad. If that is the only way you can win elections, Republicans, by ginning up racial animus, making it about the black guy in the White House, and arming your constituents against the nothingburger of “coming to get your guns”, you need to search your souls and come to grips with the fact that you are no longer a political party but a gang of thugs.

  2. June 20, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Jan, there are so many things I want to say about this post! Lee Atwater—that’s one of my triggers. I always felt that what happened to him was KARMA.

    And this part:

    THAT is what needs to change. Until people of color can feel safe going about their day, until the benefit of the doubt is extended to them … and their children … things will not be right.

    Damn right. There’s a picture circulating on FB about the difference in how white and black men are treated during arrests. One shows the latest thug after he murdered nine people of color and the other shows Eric Garner lying on the ground in a chokehold after selling cigarettes.

    And this:

    You don’t see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency, in any other advanced nation on Earth. Every country has violent, hateful, or mentally unstable people. What’s different is not every country is awash with easily accessible guns.

    After horrendous massacres in the UK and Australia years ago, both governments took steps to ban guns and make hunters register their weapons. Someone quoted on Orange remarked that Americans accept gun murders the way people in Beijing accept air pollution—it’s there all the time, we’re wary of it, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

    You know, this is what gets me: as a teenager, I made a point of visiting religious establishments that were outside my own tradition (Episcopalian at that time). I dragged my boyfriend with me to six o’clock Mass at the local Catholic cathedral in Little Rock, and to Friday night services at a local temple. In each case, kind people who recognized that we weren’t regulars, helped us find the right place in the hymnbooks so we could follow the songs properly. After the services they smiled at us. I explained to the rabbi that we were attending Friday night service to be as opposite as possible from those who had burned down a synagogue in Germany.

    The nine murder victims also smiled and welcomed the murderer to share their bible study with them. Then he slaughtered them as if they were so many rabbits. Words can’t express how outraged I feel. WHEN will we rid ourselves of the dark blot of racism?

    In California racism appears to have less of a grip. A journalist interviewed some California teenagers years ago and reported the results in the WaPo. He found them to be unbelievably free of racism as well as completely ignorant of history. He told them that white people years ago lynched black people and wouldn’t let their children attend school with black children. The response from the California kids was, “Why would anyone do that?” They couldn’t believe anyone could do such rotten things.

    They also couldn’t identify their U.S. senators and had no idea who Adolf Hitler was. Amazing.

    • JanF
      June 20, 2015 at 10:54 am

      That is the reaction of my daughter to these events “why would anyone do that?” It makes no sense to the younger generation because they don’t see people through the filter of race or religion … they are just the kids they go to school with and meet at sporting events.

      This from your experience makes me sad: “kind people who recognized that we weren’t regulars, helped us find the right place in the hymnbooks so we could follow the songs properly. After the services they smiled at us”. One of the articles I was reading this morning was about pastors … PASTORS! … saying that Rev. Pinckney should have allowed his congregation to arm themselves. And also about the security that is going up now where parishioners will be patrolling the parking lots looking for people who are “out of place”. If your visit to other churches had happened in 2015, maybe you would not have even been allowed to go into the church … or maybe you would have been shot in the parking lot. :(

      I am sure that some people will say that it is unfair to lay the blame at the feet of the Republican Party but when people in leadership do not call out the violence and the hate, they are complicit. And when a political party has stated emphatically that they are going after the white vote and encourages the xenophobia in their ranks, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt. This weekend the GOP presidential candidates are speaking before a gathering of religiousists at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference … there will be no talk of caring for the sick or feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless. They will be talking about keeping the Muslims out of America and elevating zygotes over the post-born and starting wars of choice. Their Jesus would wonder what book they were reading because it was certainly nothing in his Gospels.

  3. princesspat
    June 20, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    The words of love and forgiveness the families spoke at the bond hearing yesterday were so powerful. I remain humbled, and in tears. But I’m also feeling a deep anger and sorrow…..

    Bethane Middleton-Brown, representing family of the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor:

    “DePayne Doctor was my sister. And I just thank you on the behalf of my family for not allowing hate to win. For me, I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry.”

    “But one thing DePayne always joined in my family with is that she taught me we are the family that love built.”

    “We have no room for hate. We have to forgive. I pray God on your soul. And I also thank God I won’t be around when your judgment day comes with him.”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/dylann-roof-charleston-shooting-victims-families-court

    • JanF
      June 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      They are more forgiving that I would be … especially so soon.

      Here is another one: Charleston Victim’s Son Addresses Media On The Baseball Field

      On Thursday night, Chris Singleton, an outfielder for Charleston Southern University, stepped onto the baseball field and faced the cameras to address something unfathomable: The murder of his mother.

      Sharonda Coleman-Singleton — single mother of three, speech therapist, girls track coach, devoted member of her church — was one of nine people gunned down by 21-year-old Dylann Roof during bible study at the historically black Emanuel A.M.E. Church on Wednesday night.

      One day later, 19-year-old Singleton demonstrated remarkable poise and compassion while surrounded by teammates and other members of the Charleston Southern community. […]

      His mother’s confidence in him is what Singleton said prompted him to stand in front of the media, recalling her ever-present smile on several occasions. “Love is always stronger than hate,” he said. “So if we just love the way my mom would, then the hate won’t be anywhere close to where the love is.”

  4. JanF
    June 20, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Secretary Clinton:

    “It makes no sense that bipartisan legislation to require universal background checks would fail in Congress despite overwhelming bipartisan support,” she said. “It makes no sense that we couldn’t come together to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, or people suffering from mental illnesses, even people on the terrorist watch list.” …

    “America’s long struggle with race is far from finished,” she said. “Our problem is not all kooks and Klansman. It’s the joke that goes unchallenged; it’s the offhand comment about not wanting ‘those people’ in the neighborhood.”

    The former secretary of state lauded the families of the Charleston victims, who Friday offered Roof their forgiveness.

    “In its way, their act of mercy was more stunning than his act of cruelty,” Clinton said.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/hillary-clinton-calls-common-sense-gun-control-charleston/story?id=31910937

  5. JanF
    June 20, 2015 at 6:31 pm

  6. June 20, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Agree with your comments, Jan, and princesspat’s comments. Can’t fierce ’em, though.

    Saw the photo of Susie Jackson and the caption on Facebook earlier. It makes me feel so sad. The nine people shouldn’t be dead! That little bas-turd shouldn’t be alive! Well, since he is, I hope he has a long, long miserable life in jail.

    Getting off the computer right now because there is a thunderstorm raging outside.

    • JanF
      June 20, 2015 at 8:37 pm

      Take care, Diana!! My Twitter stream says that you are under a severe weather watch!!!

      In the morning, if you have time, I will reset your Moose user account and see if that fixes your cookies … I think they got corrupted. I will wait until I hear from you in the check-in that you are online then I will do the reset.

      We miss your Fierces!!

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