President Obama told hundreds of mayors in San Francisco Friday that this week's massacre at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, shows that racism still haunts the United States.
"The apparent motivations of the shooter reminds us that racism remains a blight we have to combat together," Obama said during a keynote speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
"We have made great progress," the president said. "But we have to be vigilant because it still lingers -- and when it is poisoning the minds of young people, it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart."
The president also used the speech to insist he has not given up on federal gun control reforms, even after being rebuffed by Congress in the wake of the December 2014 slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.
"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 it would have prevented what happened in Charleston, no reform can guarantee the elimination of violence," Obama said. "But we might still have some Americans with us. We might have stopped one shooter, some families might still be whole, y'all might have to attend fewer funerals."