Toby Keith and NRA: What they say about the Charleston shooting

Toby Keith says tougher gun laws would not have made a difference in Charleston. An NRA board member blamed the slain Charleston pastor for his opposition to carrying concealed handguns in church.

Evan Agostini/AP
Toby Keith performs at the 46th Annual Songwriters Hall Of Fame Induction and Awards Gala at the Marriott Marquis on Thursday, June 18, 2015, in New York.

In the wake of the Charleston mass shooting, Barack Obama is again calling for gun control. But others say stricter gun laws will not make Americans safer.

Country music star Toby Keith said on Thursday that stricter gun laws would not have made a difference in Charleston.

“Countries all over the world that have really strict gun policies, like Oslo, Norway. It happens there,” said Mr. Keith, probably referring to 2011 shooting and bombing in Norway which killed 77 people.

Keith said that if a police officer had been praying at The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday, "maybe seven or eight of those nine people would still be alive."

Keith's remarks were made a day after Dylann Storm Roof, 21, allegedly killed nine people during a Bible study meeting at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C..

Just hours after the shooting, President Obama said in a press conference that at some point, the US “will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” and that it's in Americans’ power “to do something about it.”

On Friday, in remarks to US mayors, Obama called for a national conversation about gun violence, saying he refuses to accept that mass shootings are “the new normal.”  

On Saturday, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is running for president, said:  "I lived in Arkansas and I represented upstate New York. I know that gun ownership is part of the fabric of a lot of law abiding communities," Clinton said. "I also know that we can have common sense gun reforms that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the violently unstable while respecting responsible gun owners."

While the Obama administration insists that stricter gun laws is the solution to gun violence, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has consistently said that carrying a gun can save lives.

In an online discussion forum about guns ( on Thursday, NRA board member Charles Cotton suggested that the slain Charleston pastor, who was also a state senator, is partly to blame, reported the Washington Post, because he opposed permitting concealed handguns in church.

“Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead,” Cotton wrote. The comment has since been deleted.

When asked about Cotton's remark, NRA spokesperson Jennifer Baker told the Guardian that “Individual board members do not speak for the NRA.” She added that the group would have no comment “until all the facts are known.”

Since 1982 there have been at least 70 mass shooting in the US, according to data collected by Mother Jones. The data include attacks in public places with four or more victims.

In October 2014, a study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University, based on Mother Jones’s data, showed that shootings have tripled since 2011.

Every mass shooting renews the gun debate in the US, sometimes among high-level officials.

In December 2012, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut where a gunman killed 20 school children and six adults, Obama set a deadline for proposals to deal with gun violence, but Congress rejected proposed legislation, including the expansion of background checks on gun buyers.

According to a 2012 US State Department report, from 1968 to 2009 the number of civilian handguns in the US has roughly doubled and reached 310 million.

But recent research conducted by the University of Chicago shows that the number of Americans households that own at least one gun has declined to 32 percent, compared with the late 1970s and early 1980s.

[Editor's note: The original story gave an incorrect fatality total for the Sandy Hook shooting.]

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.