President Obama addressed the nation Sunday (June 12) afternoon, calling the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando “an act of terror” and “hate.”
Speaking from the White House, the president didn’t mince words on the severity of the tragedy. He called the massacre that killed 50 and injured a reported 53, “the most deadly shooting in American history.”
Beyond expressing solidarity with the city of Orlando, the commander in chief urged prayers for the shooting victims and their families. “We stand with the people of Orlando who have endured a terrible act on their city,” said Obama. “Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror, and act of hate. As Americans we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.”
The president revealed that he has been in contact with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and had just finished a meeting with FBI Director James Comey, and homeland security national security advisors.
Although the massacre is being investigated as an act of terrorism, Obama asserted that there is no “definitive judgement on the precise motivations of the killer.”
The shooter, who has been identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, was killed by police. Authorities say Mateen was on an FBI watch list for suspected Islamic extremism, and may have been inspired by Isis, though he is not believed to have been directly affiliated with the terrorist group. Mateen’s father said the shooting was not religiously motivated, and that his son was angered by seeing two men kissing, days earlier.
“What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred,” said Obama. “Over the coming days we will uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.”
Obama continued, “This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friend our fellow Americans who are lesbian gay bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub, it was a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people come together to raise awareness, speak their minds, and advocate for their civil rights.”
“This massacre is a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shot people in a school, a house of worship, a movie theater, or a nightclub.”
He added, “We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be, and to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Watch Obama’s full statement below.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 12, 2016