San Francisco (AFP) - Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton issued an impassioned call for gun control Saturday following a "senseless" church massacre that left nine dead and reignited debate about the right to bear arms.
In a speech to US mayors in San Francisco, the former first lady said the time has come for "common sense gun reforms" to help put an end to the recurring shooting tragedies that erupt with shocking frequency in the United States.
Clinton, who is running for the 2016 Democratic nomination, said the most recent spasm of gun violence left America "struggling once again to make sense of violence that is fundamentally senseless."
"I know that gun ownership is part of the fabric of a lot of law-abiding communities," she told the gathering.
"But 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."
Clinton, a former US secretary of state and ex-senator, said she shared the grief of relatives of the nine black church members gunned down by an alleged white supremacist late Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina.
"As a mother, grandmother, a human being -- just as a fellow human being -- my heart is bursting for them, for these victims and their families, for a wounded community and a wounded church," she told the US Conference of Mayors.
The message was in line with the more personal and personable approach she has taken for this, her second presidential campaign, after a 2008 loss for the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.
Clinton, as she invoked civil rights leaders, said it was "tempting" to view the Charleston attack as an isolated incident, but stressed that "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."
"I know this is a difficult topic to talk about," Clinton added.
"I know that so many of us hoped by electing our first black president, we had turned the page on this chapter in our history."
She noted the disadvantages still faced by many African Americans, including that the median wealth of black families is about $11,000, compared to $134,000 for white families.
"Race remains a deep fault line in America," Clinton said.
"Millions of people of color still experience racism in their everyday lives."
The American and South Carolina state flags were flown at half-staff after the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Dylann Roof, 21, from a small town outside Columbia, was apprehended on Thursday in North Carolina.
He is currently in solitary confinement in Charleston, charged with the murders.