President Barack Obama spoke to a nation grieving over the nightclub slaughter in Orlando, Fla., mid-day Monday after receiving an FBI briefing. Following are his remarks, in part. See the full White House press release at http://1.usa.gov/ 1WMO1VS.
“First of all, our hearts go out to the families of those who have been killed. Our prayers go to those who have been wounded. This is a devastating attack on all Americans. It is one that is particularly painful for the people of Orlando, but I think we all recognize that this could have happened anywhere in this country. And we feel enormous solidarity and grief on behalf of the families that have been affected.
“The fact that it took place at a club frequented by the LGBT community I think is also relevant. We’re still looking at all the motivations of the killer. But it’s a reminder that regardless of race, religion, faith or sexual orientation, we’re all Americans, and we need to be looking after each other and protecting each other at all times in the face of this kind of terrible act.
“With respect to the killer, there’s been a lot of reporting that’s been done. It’s important to emphasize that we’re still at the preliminary stages of the investigation, and there’s a lot more that we have to learn. The one thing that we can say is that this is being treated as a terrorist investigation. It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the Internet. All those materials are currently being searched, exploited so we will have a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making the decision to launch this attack.
“As [FBI Director James] Comey I think will indicate, at this stage we see no clear evidence that he was directed externally. It does appear that, at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL, but there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by ISIL. And there also at this stage is no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot. …
“As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time. … It appears that one of those weapons he was able to just carry out of the store — an assault rifle, a handgun — a Glock — which had a lot of clips in it. He was apparently required to wait for three days under Florida law. But it does indicate the degree to which it was not difficult for him to obtain these kinds of weapons.
“Director Comey will discuss the fact that there had been some investigation of him in the past that was triggered, but as Director Comey I think will indicate, the FBI followed the procedures that they were supposed to and did a proper job.
“At the end of the day, this is something that we are going to have to grapple with — making sure that even as we go after ISIL and other extremist organizations overseas, even as we hit their leadership, even as we go after their infrastructure, even as we take key personnel off the field, even as we disrupt external plots — that one of the biggest challenges we are going to have is this kind of propaganda and perversions of Islam that you see generated on the Internet, and the capacity for that to seep into the minds of troubled individuals or weak individuals, and seeing them motivated then to take actions against people here in the United States and elsewhere in the world that are tragic. And so countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure that we are disrupting more extensive plots engineered from the outside.
“We are also going to have to have to make sure that we think about the risks we are willing to take by being so lax in how we make very powerful firearms available to people in this country. …
“My concern is that we start getting into a debate, as has happened in the past, which is an either/or debate. And the suggestion is either we think about something as terrorism and we ignore the problems with easy access to firearms, or it’s all about firearms and we ignore the role — the very real role that that organizations like ISIL have in generating extremist views inside this country. And it’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and.
“We have to go after these terrorist organizations and hit them hard. We have to counter extremism. But we also have to make sure that it is not easy for somebody who decides they want to harm people in this country to be able to obtain weapons to get at them.
“And my hope is, is that over the next days and weeks that we are being sober about how we approach this problem, that we let the facts get determined by our investigators, but we also do some reflecting in terms of how we can best tackle what is going to be a very challenging problem not just here in this country, but around the world.”
When asked about the lack of gun control reform in the U.S., Obama also had a few words:
“The fact that we make it this challenging for law enforcement, for example, even to get alerted that somebody who they are watching has purchased a gun — and if they do get alerted, sometimes it’s hard for them to stop them from getting a gun — is crazy. It’s a problem. And we have to, I think, do some soul-searching.
“But again, the danger here is, is that then it ends up being the usual political debate. And the NRA and the gun control folks say that, oh, Obama doesn’t want to talk about terrorism. And if you talk about terrorism, then people say why aren’t you looking at issues of gun control.
“The point is, is that if we have self-radicalized individuals in this country, then they are going to be very difficult oftentimes to find ahead of time. And how easy it is for them to obtain weapons is, in some cases, going to make a difference as to whether they’re able to carry out attacks like this or not. And we make it very easy for individuals who are troubled or disturbed or want to engage in violent acts to get very powerful weapons very quickly. And that’s a problem.”