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Obama: US gun violence 33 times that of Israel

President says ‘expressions of sympathy aren’t enough,’ something must be done to curb firearm homicide rate

Illustrative -- US President Barack Obama speaks about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
Illustrative -- US President Barack Obama speaks about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

In the wake of a shooting at a South Carolina church last week, US President Barack Obama on Saturday called for action to reduce US gun violence, noting that the homicide rate in America was far higher than other developed countries, and 33 times that of Israel.

The president’s remarks on Twitter came days after 21-year-old Dylann Roof allegedly entered a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot nine worshipers dead, and injured a tenth. An online “manifesto” ascribed to him rails against African-Americans and “Jewish agitation of the black race.”

“Here are the stats,” Obama said on Twitter. “Per population, we kill each other with guns at a rate 297x more than Japan, 49x more than France, 33x more than Israel.”

“Expressions of sympathy aren’t enough. It’s time we do something about this,” he said.

The president’s tweet was part of an effort by the White House to point out the disparity in violent crime rates between the US and other developed countries.

In a press conference on Friday, Obama said that “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. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

Israel has stringent gun control laws regulating possession firearms and requiring health, mental health and criminal background checks in addition to providing a credible reason for ownership. Unlike the US, where the Constitution’s Second Amendment enshrines the right to bear arms, firearm possession in Israel is not a legal right.

Obama told the 2015 US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco Friday that gun crime was a crisis that “tears at the fabric of a community” and “costs this country dearly,” Obama said: “More than 11,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone. 11,000.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, speaking at the same conference, spoke out about the re-emerging debate about gun control laws this weekend saying new regulations can be passed while still respecting the Second Amendment and “respecting responsible gun owners.”

“The politics on this issue have been poisoned, but we can’t give up,” Clinton told the US Conference of Mayors meeting in San Francisco on Saturday. “The stakes are too high. The costs are too dear.”

Obama’s efforts since taking office to implement new gun control legislation have been stymied by Congress despite a slew of high-profile mass shootings.

The president called it a “day of shame” when Congress rejected new legislation in the wake of the the slaughter of 26 people, including 20 young children, at a Connecticut school in December 2012.

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