‘Too many guns out there’
Asked whether anything could have been done to prevent Wednesday night’s mass slaying, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said, “We don’t know what could have been done.
“I personally believe there are far too many guns out there, access to guns,” he said.
Riley said society is not able to deal with easy access to firearms. “It seems to become more difficult rather than less” to manage that access, he said. “The number of handguns that are out there, and therefore the (easy ability) for people to gain possession of them, no doubt contributes to violent acts.”
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Riley said he assumed a “major national effort to further regulate access and possession to guns” would have happened after the Newtown, Conn., massacre of schoolchildren in late 2012. He added Wednesday’s shooting is “another example” more gun control is necessary.
‘We need to have an honest discussion about race relations’
While Riley — and President Barack Obama — pointed his finger at guns, others pointed in another direction.
S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said South Carolina needs to have a discussion about race. “We can't seem to get past this kind of thing in South Carolina. It's unfathomable we cannot do better. We need to have an honest discussion about race relations in this state.”
Others agreed. “Events like this are further evidence that we need to be fighting for racial equality in our daily lives,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina. “Although the motives are unclear at this point, this attack against black people in an institution that has such historical and cultural importance detracts from years of healing undertaken by our communities. Sen. Clementa Pinckney stood for civil liberties, and we mourn his loss with the other victims.”
Charleston announces fund to help victims
Charleston Mayor Riley announced the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund Thursday to help the relatives of victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting pay for funerals for their loved ones, counseling services and other needs.
Riley said the city had pledged $5,000 and, later Thursday, Boeing, which builds planes in North Charleston, weighed in with a $100,000 contribution.
Contributions also can be made at any Wells Fargo branch or checks made out to “Mother Emanuel Hope Fund” can be sent to: Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, c/o City of Charleston, P.O. Box 304, Charleston, SC 29402
Flags lowered for nine days for nine victims
Flags on state property and Columbia city property were lowered to half-staff Thursday.
Gov. Nikki Haley ordered the flags remain at half-staff for nine days — through the end of Saturday, June 27 — in memory of the nine victims who lost their lives Wednesday night.
The city of Columbia followed suit, adding the move — until further notice — also was “a show of Columbia’s support for the city of Charleston during this difficult time.”
Bush: ‘Thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families’
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was to have launched his S.C. campaign Thursday, holding a town hall-style meeting just a few blocks from Wednesday night’s tragedy. But Bush canceled the event.
“Governor Bush’s thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families affected by this tragedy,” spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said in a statement.
Other presidential candidates — Republican and Democratic — also weighed in, expressing their condolences.
Charleston to hold vigil Friday night
The city of Charleston announced it would hold a prayer vigil Friday at 6 p.m. at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena.