WASHINGTON — President Obama delivered a short statement on the Orlando terror attack from the White House briefing room that included a fresh call for gun control.
“We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city,” Obama said.
“Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.”
Obama said he met with his national security team including FBI Director James Comey today and vowed to give full federal support to Florida authorities.
“We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer,” he said. “The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.”
The president also thanked first responders kept carnage from being even worse by shooting and killing 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who called 911 during the attack and reportedly swore allegiance to ISIS.
New York-born Mateen, who lived in Fort Pierce, Fla., killed at least 50 and wounded 50 more at the Pulse nightclub. His ex-wife told the Washington Post that he was abusive.
Obama called the attack “an especially heartbreaking day” for the LGBT community as the shooter targeted a nightclub that was “a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.”
He added that it’s a “a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”
“And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans,” he said.
The nightclub attack is now the most deadly shooting in American history. Mateen had worked as a security guard since 2007, and had a security firearms license as well as a state license. He was armed with a handgun and assault rifle.
Obama said the attack was “a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.”
“And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
“In the face of hate and violence we will love one another,” the president added, stressing the need to “not give in to fear or turn against each other.”
“Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us. May God bless the Americans we lost this morning. May He comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love,” Obama said before leaving the briefing room without taking questions from reporters.