President Barack Obama said on Monday there was no clear evidence that the shooter in Sunday’s massacre in Orlando, Florida, was directed by a larger terrorist network.
“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office after a briefing by senior officials including Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.
“As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time,” Obama said.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, expressed allegiance to the radical group Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS, in a call to the city’s 911 emergency telephone line during a standoff with police while holding hostages in a gay nightclub called Pulse.
Obama said there was no evidence that Mateen, who killed 49 people at the club before he was shot dead by police, was part of a wider plot.
Administration officials were examining various internet sites that had been visited by the shooter, Obama said.
He said the United States had to think about the risks of firearms laws that allow easy access to guns. Police have said the gunman was armed with an assault-rifle-type weapon and a handgun that were purchased legally.
The president said he was concerned that the response to the massacre would turn into a debate over whether to toughen gun laws or pursue extremist groups like Islamic State.
“We have to go after these terrorist organizations and hit them hard,” Obama said. “But we also have to make sure that it is not easy for somebody who decides they want to harm people in this country to be able to obtain weapons.”
TRUMP CRITICIZES OBAMA
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lashed out at Obama on Monday over the shooting massacre in Orlando at the hands of a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, saying it is possible Obama “doesn’t want to see what’s happening.”
Trump, in a series of television interviews, questioned Obama’s motivation and said he would never solve the national security problem.
“There are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” program. “… I happen to think he just doesn’t know what he’s doing. But there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it, maybe he doesn’t want to see what’s happening.”
Trump also chided Obama in a Fox News interview, saying, “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands. It’s one or the other and neither one is acceptable.”
Trump has for years suggested that Obama is secretly a Muslim. In 2011, when Trump drew national attention for demanding Obama produce another copy of his birth certificate, he told Fox News, “maybe it says he is a Muslim.” Obama is a practicing Christian.
“We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said on Fox without being specific. “And the something else in mind. People can’t believe it … There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.”
A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the White House.
Trump on Sunday had called for Obama to resign for not using the words “radical Islam” in his comments about the shooting. He also renewed his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Trump said on CNN the United States needed better intelligence-gathering to prevent incidents such as the Orlando massacre
“We have to have a ban on people coming in from Syria and different parts of the world with this philosophy that is so hateful and so horrible,” Trump said on “Good Morning America.”
Trump plans to deliver a speech on national security at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday in New Hampshire.
‘STATESMANSHIP, NOT PARTISANSHIP’
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton warned against demonizing Muslim Americans and called for “statesmanship, not partisanship” in the aftermath of the shooting.
The presumptive Democratic nominee, in several television interviews, also said she would support stronger measures to prevent so-called lone wolf attacks and urged closer internet monitoring. She said she was committed to protecting the rights of Muslim Americans at the same time.
“We cannot demonize, demagogue and declare war on an entire religion. That is just dangerous,” Clinton said on the MSNBC network.
“Let’s have a very clear rational discussion about what we do right and what we can improve on and how we’re going to protect Americans, both from the threats of terrorism and ISIS … and how we’re going to try to save people’s lives from the epidemic of gun violence.”
Clinton also said the shooting renews the need to address gun control laws and called for steps to prevent people who are on the U.S. no-fly list from purchasing guns.
“Now that we’re seeing terrorists use these assault weapons, that has to be part of the debate,” she said.