ORLANDO – A weary sounding President Barack Obama came once again to comfort the grieving following another mass shooting, and called once again for change.
“Unfortunately, our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for terrorists or just a a disturbed individual to buy extraordinarily powerful weapons, and they can do so legally,” he said Thursday afternoon, after meeting with loved ones affected by the Pulse nightclub shootings that left 49 dead and many more wounded. “This debate needs to change.”
He called out those who defend the need for Americans to be able to legally purchase high-powered assault weapons like the one used in the attack, saying they “should meet these families and explain why that makes sense. They should meet with the Newtown (Conn.) families, whose children would now be finishing fifth grade.”
He saluted possible new U.S. Senate gun control legislation.
“I truly hope that senators will rise to the moment and do the right thing,” he said. “And then I hope the House does the right thing.”
He said Sunday’s mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub beloved by patrons as a safe haven, underscores the need for compassion.
“It’s a good time for us to reflect on how we treat each other,” he said. “We have to end violence and discrimination against our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community.”
“I’ve said this before: we will not be able to stop every tragedy. We can stop some tragedies. We can save some lives. We can reduce the impact of a terrorist attack if we’re smart. If we don’t act, we will keep seeing more massacres like this because we will be choosing to allow them to happen. We will have said we don’t care enough to do something about it.”
The president and Vice President Joe Biden placed 49 roses, one for each slain victim, at a memorial site honoring the fallen. He talked about the somber moments he’d spent with family members.
“Through their pain and through their tears they told us about the joy their loved ones brought to their lives,” he said. “Wo many young people… so many students who were focused on the future. One young woman was just 18 years old.
“There were siblings there, talking about their brothers and sisters, and how they were role models they looked up to,” Obama continued. “There were husbands and wives who had taken a solemn vow. Fathers and mothers who gave their full heart to children. These families could be our families. In fact they are our family. They’re part of the American family.”
He quoted one of the doctors he’d met with in heralding the heroics of first responders, police officers, health care professionals and others who sprang to action after the shootings: “After the worst of humanity reared its evil head, the best of humanity came roaring back.”
But that’s not enough, Obama said.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, if in fact we want to show the best of our humanity, we’re all going to have to work together, at every level of government, across political lines, to do more to stop killers ho want to terrorize us,” he said, vowing “relentless” efforts against terrorist groups like ISIS, to whom Orlando shooter Omar Mateen had pledged allegiance. “The last two terrorist attacks on our soil – Orlando and San Bernardino (Calif.) – were homegrown, 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.”