President Obama says he is concerned that in the aftermath of the country's deadliest mass shooting in Orlando yesterday, Americans are caught in a debate that the root problem is either terrorism or about gun control.
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“It's not an either/or. It's a both/and," Obama said. "We have to go after these terrorist organizations and hit them hard. We have to counter extremism, but we also have to make sure that it's not easy for somebody who decides they want to harm people in this country to be able to obtain weapons to get at them."
Extending his “deepest sympathies” to the victims and their families, the president says it appears that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was inspired by "extremist information" disseminated via the internet, but the massacre was not part of a larger plot.
"We're still at the preliminary stages of the investigation, and there's a lot more that we have to learn. The one thing that we can say is that this is being treated as a terrorist investigation," Obama said. "It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet. All those materials are currently being searched, exploited, so we will have a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making a decision to launch this attack."
"At this stage, we see no clear evidence that he was directed externally," Obama continued. "It does appear that at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL, but there's no evidence so far that he was, in fact, directed by ISIL. And there's no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot."
The president and Vice President Joe Biden were briefed in the Oval Office by FBI Director James Comey, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen, and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
The president said the investigation will look at all possible motivations of the killer, but said it appears the attack is “an example of homegrown extremism.”
“One of the biggest challenges we are going to have is this kind of propaganda and perversions of Islam that you see generated on the internet, and the capacity for that to seep into the minds of troubled individuals or weak individuals, and seeing them motivated then to take actions against people here in the United States and elsewhere in the world that are tragic,” Obama said. “So countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure that we are disrupting more extensive plots engineered from the outside.”