Vice President Kamala Harris said Sunday that many Black Americans live every day with the fear of becoming victims of ‘hate-fueled gun violence’ in response to a gunman in Florida opening fire in a Dollar General and killing three Black people.
Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, arrived at a Dollar General in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, Glock handgun and tactical vest. Palmeter then shot and killed three victims in what Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters described as a ‘racially motivated’ attack.
On Sunday, Harris released a statement about the shooting in which she condemned hatred and violent extremism in America, and said that Black people are often concerned about racially motivated gun violence against them when they leave their homes.
The vice president pointed out that the shooting Saturday afternoon was happening as many Americans were celebrating the anniversary of the March on Washington, the 1963 march by activists demanding civil and economic rights for Black Americans.
‘Already, federal law enforcement has opened a civil rights investigation into this attack and is treating it as a possible hate crime and act of domestic violent extremism,’ Harris said.
‘As we allow that investigation to proceed, let us continue to speak truth about the moment we are in: America is experiencing an epidemic of hate,’ she continued. ‘Too many communities have been torn apart by hatred and violent extremism. Too many families have lost children, parents, and grandparents. Too many Black Americans live every day with the fear that they will be victims of hate-fueled gun violence—at school, at work, at their place of worship, at the grocery store.’
Harris also urged congressional lawmakers to ban assault weapons and pass ‘other commonsense gun safety’ measures.
‘Every person in every community in America should have the freedom to live safe from gun violence,’ she said.
The victims of the shooting on Saturday were 52-year-old Angela Michelle Carr, 19-year-old Anolt Joseph Laguerre Jr., and 29-year-old Jerrald De’Shawn Gallion.
According to officials, Palmeter was once involved in a 2016 domestic violence incident and was once involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for examination. Images of the shooting shared on the sheriff’s Facebook page also show white lettering and symbols painted on the gunman’s AR-15 rifle, including what appears to be a swastika.
Waters addressed calls for firearm bans in a news conference held Sunday afternoon.
‘The story’s always about guns. People are bad,’ he said. ‘This guy’s a bad guy. If I could take my gun off right now and lay it on this counter, nothing will happen. It’ll sit there. But as soon as a wicked person grabs ahold of that gun and starts shooting people with it, there’s the problem. The problem is the individual.’
President Biden also released a statement Sunday decrying White supremacy.
‘Even as we continue searching for answers, we must say clearly and forcefully that white(sic) supremacy has no place in America,’ Biden said. ‘We must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store or Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin. Hate must have no safe harbor. Silence is complicity and we must not remain silent.’
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican presidential candidate, called the shooter a ‘scumbag’ in remarks on Saturday.
‘This shooting, based on the manifesto they discovered from the scumbag that did this, was racially motivated,’ DeSantis said. ‘He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.’