COLUMBIA, S.C. – During a campaign trip to South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper is meeting with church members who survived a racist massacre in 2015.
The former Colorado governor is scheduled to have dinner and a roundtable discussion Saturday with survivors of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME, Hickenlooper's campaign announced this week. Nine black parishioners were slain as they prayed during Bible study at the church. The shooter, a white man who said he hoped that the killings would start a race war, is on federal death row .
The historic church in downtown Charleston has become a place of pilgrimage for some 2020 presidential candidates as they campaign in the state, home of the first primary in the South. Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke stopped by during a recent visit to Charleston, as did Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who tweeted about her visit after the fact, calling for "commonsense gun safety reforms."
The location of Hickenlooper's meeting with shooting survivors hasn't been announced, and the campaign has not said explicitly if he plans to visit the church itself.
Hickenlooper is known as a staunch advocate for gun control legislation. Following the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, the then-governor called for and signed bills requiring universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.
"Unfortunately, the governor has firsthand experience with mass shootings," Hickenlooper spokewoman Lauren Hitt said, asked about the meeting with AME survivors. "He wants to sit down and hear about what they learned from the church shooting."
Ahead of his trip to South Carolina, Hickenlooper speaks Friday at the National Action Network's annual conference in New York before traveling to Montgomery, Alabama, for meetings with faith leaders and a visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which was recently constructed in dedication to victims of lynchings.
Following his dinner with AME survivors, the campaign said, Hickenlooper plans to meet with Democrats in Charleston County and attend Sunday morning services at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, a North Charleston congregation that has hosted several other Democratic presidential contenders in recent months.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP