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Obama talks gun control, racism, and the N-word

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

(Read caption) President Obama pauses as he speaks about gun violence at the Annual Meeting of the US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on Friday. Conceding that congressional action was unlikely soon, President Barack Obama said lawmakers will tighten federal firearms restrictions when they believe the public is demanding it. 'I am not resigned,' Obama said. 'I have faith we will eventually do the right thing.'

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President Obama used strong words to illustrate how he thinks America still has a lot of work to do to eliminate racism.

In an hour-long interview on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast – taped last Friday in Mr. Maron’s garage studio in Los Angeles and posted online this morning – President Obama said that while the United States has made progress in reducing discrimination, the legacies of slavery and racial discrimination in the country “casts a long shadow” and is still “part of our DNA.”

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“We’re not cured of it ... and it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say [the N-word] in public,” he told Maron. “That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination.”

The president’s comments come days after a white man killed nine black parishioners during bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

He has called for new laws restricting gun sales in the country in the past, and during the interview criticized the political clout of the National Rifle Association, a powerful pro-gun lobbying group.

“The grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong,” he told Maron.

He cited the failure of gun control legislation in the wake of a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., saying the failure of Congress to pass a gun control bill left him “pretty disgusted.”

“I tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds were gunned down and Congress literally does nothing – yeah, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted” during this presidency, he said.

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But the president also acknowledged that, while the US still has a ways to go in eliminating racism, they have already come a long way in recent decades.

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“I always tell young people in particular: ‘Do not say that nothing’s changed when it comes to race in America unless you lived through being a black man in the 1950s or ‘60s or ‘70s,” said Obama.

He added, “Societies don’t just overnight completely erase everything that happened two to 300 years prior.”

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.