Charleston shooting: Obama decries the 'blight' of racism and calls for action on guns

'When it's poisoning the minds of young people, it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart'

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In his second statement since nine black Americans were murdered in a South Carolina church, President Barack Obama said "racism remains a blight" on the US.

Suspected shooter Dylan Roof, 21, who earlier in the day appeared in court to face murder charges, is reported to have made a series racist tirades in which he expressed a desire to start "a civil war".

The massacre on Wednesday is being treated as a "hate crime" by South Carolina police.

Speaking at a conference for US mayors in San Francisco, Obama said: "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 the president said the families of the victims - who have expressed astonishing forgiveness - represent the "goodness of the American people".

In the Charleston sports arena on Friday night, thousands came together to honour the victims — they joined hands and sang 'We Shall Overcome'.

Mayor Joseph Riley said: "A hateful person came to this community with some crazy idea he'd be able to divide, but all he did was unite us and make us love each other even more."

On this, the 14th major shooting of his presidency, Obama once again called for a "change in attitude" on guns.

Taking aim at Congress, who did not pass a ban on assault weapons in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, he said: "It's not enough for us to express sympathy; we have to take action.

"More than 11,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone. If Congress had passed some commonsense legislation after Newtown, after a group of children had been gunned down in their own classroom, reforms that 90% of the American people supported, we might still have more Americans with us."

Despite that failure, the president said he will not give up: "I'm not resigned. I have faith that we will eventually do the right thing. I refuse to act as if this is the new normal."