charleston shooting
Dylann Roof\'s victims: Top row from left: Pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney, 41; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26. Middle row from left: Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87. Bottom row from left: DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; Daniel Simmons Sr, 74

Families of the Charleston church shooting victims have expressed forgiveness for murder suspect Dylann Roof, while US President Barack Obama has called for stricter gun control and praised the community's show of unity and love in the face of unimaginable horror.

Murder suspect Roof, 21, who is charged with nine counts of murder for the bloody attack at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church this week, made his first court appearance via video link less than 48 hours after the massacre.

With hands cuffed behind his back and wearing a blue button-down prison jumpsuit, the young killer listened to the statements of relatives of those killed without betraying any emotion.

Ethel Lance's daughter told Roof: "I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you."

Myra Thompson's relative, Anthony Thompson told him: "We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give you life to Christ. So that he can change it. So that you can change your ways no matter hast happened to you, and you'll be OK."

Tywanza Sanders' mother Felicia, who survived by playing dead while lying in her son's blood, said: "Every fibre in my body hurts, and I will never be the same. As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have mercy on you."

"Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof — everyone's plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won't win," said Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Simmons. "And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn't win."

"I'm a work in progress and I acknowledge that I'm very angry," said Bethane Middleton-Brown, whose sister, the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, was killed. "We have no room for hate. We have to forgive. I pray God on your soul. And I also thank God I won't be around when your judgment day comes with him."

Also on Friday (19 June) the teenage children of Sharonda Singleton, 45, Chris and Camryn Singleton, told the BBC they have forgiven their mother's killer.

"We forgive him for what he's done, there's noting but love from our side of the family," said Chris Singleton. "Love is stronger than hate, that's all [we've] got to say," they added.

The same day, Dylann Roof's family offered their prayers and sympathy for the victims of the massacre, releasing a statement expressing "shock, grief and disbelief" following the attack that left the community and the nation reeling.

In an address made on Friday (19 June), Obama said the US needs stricter gun control in order to address increasing crimes, many of which are racially-motivated.

"The apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together. We have made great progress, but we have to be vigilant because it still lingers," he said.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has reported that Franklin Bennett Roof, who bought his son the gun allegedly used in the massacre, was a violent man who subjected ex-wife Paige Mann – Dylann's stepmother – to a "pattern of control and mental manipulation" that culminated with an assault.

Roof's uncle, Carson Cowles, told the Washington Post that his mother "never raised him to be like this. The whole world is going to be looking at his family who raised this monster," he added.