Florida’s Democratic senator suggested that the closed FBI investigation of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen should have been included in the background check when he went to purchase guns before the massacre.
The FBI said Sunday that officials were first alerted to Mateen, who pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call during the attack, in 2013 when co-workers were alarmed by statements the security guard made alleging he was affiliated with a terrorist group. Agent Ron Hopper said the FBI interviewed Mateen twice but did not arrive at the conclusion that he was connected to terrorists.
In 2014, the FBI investigated a potential connection between Mateen and Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, who had traveled to Syria and come back to Fort Pierce, Fla., to do some recruiting for al-Qaeda before returning to Syria and becoming the first American to conduct a suicide attack there. The FBI determined that contact between the two was “minimal,” and ceased their investigation of Mateen.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) told CNN that he talked with the FBI about the pair of closed investigations. “I think if you talk to them they’ll tell you they didn’t have the what’s called predication and evidence under the Constitution to properly contain, arrest, and charge this individual. Is it frustrating? Yes. Are we going to be look at that and asking questions about what happened? Of course,” McCaul said.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told MSNBC this morning that “when all the dots are connected, it’s going to be terrorist-inspired, ISIS-inspired, along with the hate crime of anti-gay.”
“Either way, it’s terrorism, and terrorism is meant to instill fear, and that’s where we have to dig down deep and overcome this, go on about our daily lives as Americans. That’s the best way to respond to this, and then pray and grieve with the Orlando community,” he said.
Nelson noted that Mateen was not on the FBI’s radar “because the cases were closed.”
“Maybe what we ought to do, where someone has had a case like that, keep it fresh when they go to buy a gun so that that pops up on the background check. That’s one thing that we can do,” he said. “Another thing that we can do, of course, the NRA isn’t going to let this happen — there’s no sense to have assault weapons being sold. That’s for killing. That’s not for hunting.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who unsuccessfully tried to push new gun-control measures after the Sandy Hook massacre, charged in a statement that “Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence.”
“I know the pain and sadness that has brought too many communities – Newtown, Oregon, Aurora, San Bernardino, and now Orlando – to their knees, and I can only hope that America’s leaders will do something to prevent another community from being added to the list. This phenomenon of near constant mass shootings happens only in America – nowhere else,” Murphy said. “…This doesn’t have to happen, but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing – again.”
However, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) told reporters Sunday that the focus needs to be kept on counterterrorism measures instead of new gun laws.
“Europe has very strict gun laws, and in Paris they conducted a devastating attack using banned guns,”’ Rubio said. “Whether he would have gone in there with an explosive or fertilizer, what’s the difference? My point is he’s a terrorist. He’s committed to killing as many people as he could in the most dramatic way possible.”
McCaul told CNN, “Let’s not forget what the real threat is. Many of these terrorism cases involve stolen firearms, AK-47s. An outright ban is not going to solve the problem. But I do think that the FBI should have full access to any potential terrorist in this country that is looking to purchasing a firearm.”