Charleston Shooting More About Race, Less About Guns, Not About Religion

When 21-year-old Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel AME Church, he realized a plan that had reportedly been six months in the making.

We know Roof had access to a.45-caliber handgun; we do not know his mental health status or his religious persuasion. What we also know about the Charleston shootings is the motive as told by Roof to a cousin of one of his victims.

“You rape our women and you’re taking over the country. You have to go.”

The Daily Beast reports Dylann Roof, who reportedly hated Trayvon Martin, told authorities he wanted to “start a civil war.” Roof, who fled Charleston immediately after the shooting, was arrested without incident in neighboring North Carolina.

President Obama, visibly frustrated, issued a statement on the Charleston shooting and lamented, “…once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”

Though Charleston’s recent church shooting can fall neatly under the umbrella of gun violence, it is not exclusively or even primarily a gun issue.

Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy framed Dylann Roof’s killing of church members as a possible “attack on religious liberty,” according to HuffPost Hill.

“…well, it’s because it was a white guy, apparently, and a black church. But you made a great point just a moment ago about the hostility towards Christians, and it was in a church, so maybe that’s what it was about.”

Presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham spoke on the Charleston shooting during his appearance on The View and echoed Doocy’s sentiments.

“…it’s 2015. There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them.”

Bloomberg reported on Senator Rand Paul’s “sickness” diagnosis as the cause for the Charleston church shooting.

Following revelations by Dylann Roof’s friend about Roof’s penchant for white supremacy groups and how he threatened to shoot a black woman, the Justice Department began investigating the Charleston shooting as a hate crime.

The issue of the Charleston shooting is not about guns, though President Obama is right about Roof wanting to inflict harm on people just as four white supremacists wanted to inflict harm on their Alabama neighbors who worshiped at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Race, not guns or religion, is a national talking point on Charleston as the confederate flag still flies full-mast while others are at half-mast to honor the shooting victims.

Social media, a good source for commentary not captured during news coverage, shows where people are leading the national dialogue on the Charleston shooting as the hashtag #CharlestonShooting quickly became another Twitter trending topic.


Even the Charleston shooting news coverage can be very telling on our views on race.


While America does have an increasing amount of gun violence, a better case to argue that – and mental health – would be James Holmes’ Colorado shooting case. Dylann Roof’s use of a gun during the Charleston shooting was a matter of convenience. His motive was race, the core of which was hate.

[Photo by John Raedle/Getty Images]