Obama: US needs to address gun violence after church shooting

Barack Obama speaks about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 18, 2015.
Barack Obama speaks about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 18, 2015.AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A clearly frustrated President Barack Obama said Thursday the United States should look again at how killers get their hands on guns, after what he called "senseless murders" at a historic black church.

"Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let'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," Obama said.

"It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it."

The President expressed anger over the attack, in which a white suspect opened fire on a Bible study group in a church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine members of the mainly black congregation.

"I've had to make statements like this too many times," he said, in brief remarks from the White House podium, flanked by an equally ashen-faced Vice-President Joe Biden.

"Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun," he complained.

But Obama immediately admitted the difficulty of passing legislation or even addressing the issue of gun control in a gridlocked Washington of entrenched political interests.

"I say that recognising the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now, but it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it," he said.

"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."