U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday urged lawmakers to take action to prevent gun violence after meeting with families of the victims of Sunday’s shooting attack in Orlando, The Hill reports.
The president pledged to be “relentless” in going after international terrorist groups, but said passing new gun laws is a crucial step in preventing “homegrown” attacks like the massacre in Florida.
“Today, once again, as has been true too many times before, I held and hugged grieving family members and parents and they asked, ‘why does this keep happening?’ ” Obama said, standing beside Vice President Joe Biden at a makeshift memorial for the victims.
“They pleaded that we do more to stop the carnage,” he added. “They don’t care about the politics. Neither do I, neither does Joe, and neither should any parent out there. This debate needs to change.”
The president challenged Republicans who have stymied his efforts to enact tighter gun laws in response to a spate of mass shootings, starting with the 2012 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
“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,” he said, according to The Hill. “Those who defend the easy accessibility to assault weapons should meet these families and explain why that makes sense.”
Obama praised the Senate for agreeing to take votes on measures to prevent people on terror watch lists from purchasing firearms, saying it will take "more than our military" to prevent future attacks.
"I truly hope that senators rise to the moment and do the right thing,” he said. “We will not be able to stop every tragedy … but 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,” warned Obama, “we will keep seeing more massacres like this because we will be choosing to allow this to happen.”
The Orlando shooting was carried out by Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen born to Afghan parents who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) in the midst of the attack.
Earlier on Thursday, some details emerged about posts Mateen made on Facebook as he murdered dozens at the Orlando nightclub.
“I pledge my allegiance to [ISIS chief] Abu Bakr al Baghdadi,” Mateen wrote in the middle of his massacre. “May Allah accept me.”
He also wrote that “real Muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west”, and cited American military operations overseas as the reason behind his attack, writing, “You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes… now taste the Islamic state vengeance.”
While Obama has previously acknowledged that the shooting was a terrorist attack, he did not identify ISIS as the culprit, resulting in criticism from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who suggested that the President was complicit or approved of Islamic terror attacks.
Obama fired back on Tuesday, blasting Trump as un-American and saying that his mindset is “dangerous”.