President Obama visited the scene of the Pulse nightclub shooting today in Orlando, declaring that “the notion that the answer to this tragedy would be to make sure that more people in a nightclub are similarly armed to the killer defies common sense.”
“Those who defend the easy accessibility of assault weapons should meet these families and explain why that makes sense,” Obama said before a backdrop of a makeshift memorial of flowers and balloons. “They should meet with the Newtown families, some of whom Joe saw yesterday, whose children would now be finishing fifth grade, on why it is that we think our liberty requires these repeated tragedies. That’s not — that’s not the meaning of liberty.”
Obama was greeted upon landing in Orlando by Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) flew with Obama on Air Force One along with Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.).
Biden and Obama met with local law enforcement before meeting with survivors and family members of the fallen at the Amway Center. They then met with the owners and staff of the Pulse nightclub; two employees were among the 49 killed in Sunday’s attack.
“If in fact we want to show the best of our humanity, then we’re all going to have to work together at every level of government, across political lines, to do more to stop killers who want to terrorize us. We will continue to be relentless against terrorist groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda,” Obama said.
“…Given the fact that the last two terrorist attacks on our soil, Orlando and San Bernardino, were home-grown, carried out it appears not by external plotters, not by vast networks, or sophisticated cells, but by deranged individuals warped by the hateful propaganda that they had seen over the Internet, then we’re going to have to do more to prevent these kinds of events from occurring.”
Obama added that even though motives were different “the instruments of death were so similar” between Orlando and past mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown.
“We can’t anticipate or catch every single deranged person that may wish to do harm to his neighbors or his friends or his coworkers or strangers. But we can do something about the amount of damage that they do. Unfortunately, our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for a terrorist or just a disturbed individual like those in Aurora and Newtown to buy extraordinarily powerful weapons, and they can do so legally,” he continued.
After Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) held the floor for nearly 15 hours from Wednesday into today, the president said he’s “pleased to hear that the Senate will hold votes on preventing individuals with possible terrorist ties from buying guns, including assault weapons.”
“I truly hope that senators rise to the moment and do the right thing. I hope that senators who voted no on background checks after Newtown have a change of heart,” Obama said. “And then I hope the House does the right thing, and helps end the plague of violence that these weapons of war inflict on so many young lives.”
“I’ve said this before. We will not be able to stop every tragedy. We can’t wipe away hatred and evil from every heart in this world. But we can — we can stop some tragedies. We can save some lives. We can reduce the impact of a terrorist attack if we’re smart. And if we don’t act, we will keep seeing more massacres like this, because we’ll be choosing to allow them to happen. We will have said we don’t care enough to do something about it.”
Obama added that “here in Orlando, we are reminded not only of our obligations as a country to be resolute against terrorism. We are reminded not only of the need for us to implement smarter policies to prevent mass shootings. We’re also reminded of what unites us as Americans. And that what unites us is far stronger than the hate and the terror of those who target us.”
“…Whatever the motivations of the killer, whatever influences led him down the path of violence and terror, whatever propaganda he was consuming from ISIL and al-Qaeda, this was an act of terrorism, but it was also an act of hate. This was an attack on the LGBT community. Americans were targeted because we’re a country that has learned to welcome everyone no matter who you are or who you love. And hatred towards people because of sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a betrayal of what’s best in us.”
The president added that he and Biden were discussing on the way over to the Pulse nightclub: “You can’t break up the world into us and them, and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin or their faith or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world.”
“So if there was ever a moment for all of us to reflect and reaffirm our most basic beliefs that everybody counts and everybody has dignity, now is the time,” Obama said. “It’s a good time for all of us to reflect on how we treat each other and to insist on respect and equality for every human being.”