U.S. President Barack Obama this morning spoke to the nation on last night's mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“Although it's still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Obama told reporters gathered at the James Brady Briefing Room in the White House.
That room was named in 2000 after James Brady, an assistant to the President and White House Press Secretary under Ronald Reagan who became permanently disabled in 1981 following an assassination attempt on President Reagan. Brady became an ardent supporter of gun control as a result of this event, and the Brady Bill, a piece of gun control legislation passed in 1994 which mandated waiting periods for certain kinds of guns. The legislation was later deemed unconstitutional, but waiting periods remain in effect for many firearms due to subsequent laws which addressed the Supreme Court's issues with the Brady Bill.
“As Americans we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to protect our people,” Obama said of the attack, characterizing today as an “especially heartbreaking day” for the LGBT community.
Obama said that the FBI is on the scene in Orlando and is leading the investigation in cooperation with local law enforcement. He characterized it as an open investigation, saying that they have reached no official verdict on the motivations of the killer, but that he had instructed law enforcement to look into potential terrorist ties.
Reports have indicated that gunman Omar Mateen called 911 and pledged loyalty to the Islamic State just prior to the attack, although Mateen's father has been quoted as saying that the attack was motivated by homophobia, after having recently taken offense to seeing two men kissing.
“The place where they attacked is more than a nightclub. It is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights,” Obama said. He criticized the ease with which Mateen and other mass shooters have been able to legally obtain weapons, and asked for the American people to pray for and support the friends and families of the victims.
Obama further pledged to "go where [the investigation] leads us" when looking into the possibility that Mateen had terrorist ties.0comments
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria would later claim credit for the attack, although experts with knowledge of the Islamic State question whether there will be any operational links between Mateen and the organization. In order to enhance its reputation and spread further fear and confusion, the Islamic State has instructed "lone wolf" operatives to feel free to use their name when committing acts of terror, whether or not there is any pre-existing relationship with ISIL.
New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi has been tweeting about these sorts of "lone wolf" attacks for much of the morning, and is actively tracking the case for any potential relationship between Mateen and existing terrorist groups.