President Barack Obama tore into opponents of gun control on a visit to Orlando on Thursday, saying they should meet with the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre and “explain” their positions.
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Obama and Vice President Joe Biden spent the day in Orlando meeting with survivors, the families of victims and first responders there, after the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history and the deadliest attack in the United States since 9/11.
The shooter killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub. It’s Obama's 10th visit to a community affected by a mass shooting during his presidency.
After meeting privately with victims and families in downtown Orlando, Obama and Biden visited a memorial site, where they placed bouquets consisting of 49 white roses, one in honor of each of the deceased.
"If in fact we want to show the best of our humanity, then we're all going to have to work together at every level of government across political lines to do more to stop killers who want to terrorize us," Obama said, adding the U.S. would continue to be "relentless" in fighting extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida.
The president again spoke of his frustration over the ability of the shooter to easily and legally obtain an assault weapon, saying family members pleaded with him to "do more" to stop such killings.
"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," Obama said. "Those who defend the easy accessibility of assault weapons should meet these families and explain why that makes sense."
Despite the political differences between the two, Obama was joined on Air Force One by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for the trip to Orlando, and they called for unity and solidarity.
Obama and Biden also met with law enforcement officials and first responders the shooting, as well as the owners and some staff members of Pulse.
At Wednesday's White House briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest said that "the profound sense of survivor's guilt that some people are expressing is painful just to read, and I think it is important for the president of the United States, on behalf of the country, to show his support for these families and for these individuals."
Earnest spoke about the emotional toll of these events on Obama, who has frequently traveled to affected areas after catastrophes and attacks. "It would be impossible for him to not be personally affected by these kinds of conversations and these kinds of interactions," he said. “I think the president in the past has indicated that he draws on his faith as he considers fulfilling these kinds of responsibilities.”
Obama was greeted on arrival in Orlando by the state’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a supporter of GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump. Scott complained in recent days that the president did not directly call him, even after he reportedly received calls from Trump and former President George W. Bush.