President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited the families of the victims of the Orlando nightclub terror attack on Thursday and called for action on gun control.
“I held and hugged grieving family members and parents and they asked why does this keep happening?” Obama said, as the families pleaded for the carnage to stop.
“These families could be our families, in fact they are our families,” said Obama. “They don’t care about the politics, neither do I.”
Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire with a Sig Sauer MCX assault-style rifle at the Pulse nightclub on June 2, killing 49 and injuring 53.
The president called for action on assault weapons, saying everyone at “every level” has to work together to “stop killers who want to terrorize us.”
Obama noted that the weapons used by Mateen at the nightclub were similar to the ones used by James Holmes in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012.
“We can’t anticipate or catch every single deranged person … But we can do something about the damage that they do,” said Obama.
“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.”
The debate needs to change, Obama said, “It’s outgrown the old political stalemates.”
President Obama also said that remarks made about the victims being able to protect themselves from the shooter “defies common sense.”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Wednesday at a rally that the attack would have been “nothing like the carnage” we saw if club goers were armed.
Republicans have strongly rejected any type of gun control, citing the Second Amendment, but Obama said those liberties should not require repeated tragedies.
“If we don’t act we’ll keep seeing more massacres like this,” said Obama. “Because we’ll be choosing to allow them to happen. We will have said, we don’t care enough to do something about it.”
The president said he was pleased to hear about that the senate will hold a vote on amendments that include expanded background checks and a ban on gun sales to suspected terrorists. Republicans agreed to hold a vote three days after the Orlando shooting following an almost 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor that ended at 2 a.m. on June 16.
The president condemned homegrown terrorism and lone wolf attacks.
Obama also vowed to destroy ISIS terrorists, including disrupting the internet propaganda “that poisons so many minds around the world.” He said destroying the group will take more than the military and intelligence teams.
The president also praised the community of Orlando for its resilience amid the tragedy. He spoke of victims of the shooting including partners who shielded each other from the shooter, a mother who saved her son from bullets, and the heroic actions of a former marine who saved dozens of club goers.
“After the worst of humanity reared its evil head, the best of humanity came roaring back,” said Obama, quoting a doctor in Orlando as he praised first responders and hospital staff.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the type of rifle that was used in the attack.