Obama calls Orlando shooting an ‘act of terror,’ other politicians react

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A gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida was the scene early Sunday, June 12, 2016 of the worst terror attack in U.S. history since 9/11.

(CNN) — President Barack Obama called the mass shooting at an LGBT Orlando nightclub Sunday an “act of terror” in remarks to the nation from the White House briefing room.

“We know enough to say this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” he said. “The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terror. We will go wherever the facts lead us … What is clear is he was a person filled with hatred.”

At least 50 people were killed and 53 more wounded in the what is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

Obama said while it could have been any one of our communities, “this is an especially heartbreaking day for our friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

White House reacts

The President was briefed Sunday morning by several officials, including FBI Director James Comey and Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, according to the White House. He also ordered American flags to be lowered to half staff to honor the victims.

Vice President Joe Biden has also been briefed on the shooting and canceled a planned trip to Miami, Florida, to attend a fundraiser for Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Biden “offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims,” according to a statement from his spokesman.

The political world began to react to the shooting at the LBGT nightclub in the early Sunday morning hours.

The LGBT congressional caucus issued a statement saying they were “horrified by the tragic shooting.”

“Though details are still emerging, an attack during Pride Month against Pulse, an iconic gathering place for LGBT Floridians, has a particularly insidious impact on our entire community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy,” said Roddy Flynn, executive director of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

2016ers react

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, offered a tweet signed “-H” to indicate it was from her personally.

“Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act,” Clinton wrote.

And Clinton and Obama postponed the President’s first campaign appearance with her due to the shootings, her campaign said.

Obama and Clinton were to appear together at a rally Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Clinton echoed Obama’s language in a statement issued later on Sunday, calling the shooting an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.”

“For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad,” she said. “That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.”

Clinton also called herself an ally of the LGBT community.

“We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America,” she said.

And she issued another call for gun control laws, saying that “we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called it “horrific” and “unthinkable” and said it underscores the need for gun control measures.

“Oh, it’s horrific, it’s unthinkable. And just hopes go out to all those who were shot that they can recover,” the Democratic presidential contender said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Later, in a statement, Sanders added: “At this point we do not know whether this was an act of terrorism, a terrible hate crime against gay people or the act of a very sick person, but we extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones and our thoughts are with the injured and the entire Orlando LGBTQ community.”

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, issued a series of tweets, beginning by referring to the shooting as “possible terrorism.”

In a tweet Sunday morning, Trump said: “Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.”

He later added: “Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?”

Trump also tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

And just before the President spoke, Trump tweeted: “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

“Reporting that Orlando killer shouted “Allah hu Akbar!” as he slaughtered clubgoers. 2nd man arrested in LA with rifles near Gay parade,” he added.

Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson called the shooting a “despicable attack.”

“Regardless of what the motivation is ultimately found to be, this violence against innocent people simply going about their lives is both cowardly and infuriating,” he said. “We must allow the authorities to do their jobs, understand how this attack came about, and then respond accordingly. It is not a time to either politicize or jump to conclusions.”

Floridians weigh in

Florida Gov. Rick Scott pledged to devote “every resource available” to helping after the shooting.

“My prayers are with the victims’ families & all those affected by the shooting in Orlando. We will devote every resource available to assist,” Scott tweeted.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: “Our prayers are with those injured and killed early this morning in horrifying act of terror in Orlando.”

Other politicians

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the tragic Orlando attack and their families.”

A top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, wrote on Twitter: “Horrified and saddened by the appalling attack at Orlando LGBT nightclub. Praying for the victims and their families.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “Saddened to hear of the senseless mass shooting in Orlando. My thoughts are with the victims, the injured and their loved ones,” he tweeted.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

™ & © 2016 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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  • Dennis

    This was not an act of terrorism, nor is it a gun control, LGBT, or immigration issue, despite the press, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, the LGBT subculture, and ISIS all working those angles for their own personal gains.

    This was a horrific act of a deranged mind, nothing more. The suspect’s ex-wife has publically stated that he was both bi-polar and had issues with steroid abuse, and was prone to violence. In short, he was mentally ill.

    Terrorism implies intentionality. That is, the individual acting is doing so with the voluntary intention of causing terror in a society. From a legal standpoint, at least in the USA, the mentally ill can not form rational, voluntary intent. Therefore this can not properly be classified as a terrorist act. Sorry ISIS, sorry Obama. You can try to use the deaths of these people to forward your agendas all you want, but the fact is that all you are doing is dishonoring the victims of a homicidal lunatic. For similar reasons we can dismiss this as an attack on the LGBT community, or as a political statement against immigration policy in the US. Without the ability to form voluntary rational intentions, there can not be any way to legitimately ascribe any intent at all to the suspect, no matter what he said or wrote, because what was going on in his head was not connected to rational thought and could change at any moment. That is the nature of mental illness. Unlike a gun, mental illness can go off even if there is no finger on the trigger. And that is what makes it so dangerous.

    Neither was this a gun control issue. The laws we have in place are sufficient to have prevented this from happening **IF** the laws we had were enforced. It is illegal for someone with a mental illness to purchase, own, or possess a firearm. But in most states the only extent to which that law is enforced is that the person buying the firearm is asked if they are mentally ill. If they say no, they get a gun. NO mental health background check is done, as it is for crime, because no database exists for the mentally ill. The law is good, but there is no enforcement behind it to give that law any power.

    To call this an act of terror, against the US or against the LGBT community, or to call it a political statement protesting treatment of immigrants (legal or otherwise), Muslims, the LGBT population, or anyone else, is to actively attempt to cover up the real cause of this tragedy, thereby enabling the most dangerous threat to American lives which exists domestically today…the millions of violently mentally ill people freely walking among us untreated and unhindered. Make this an act of terrorism and you make it easier for the violently mentally ill to continue escalating and inciting eachother into engaging in these acts. Point your fingers at guns as the culprit and you only succeed in getting the violently mentally ill to switch to explosives. (They are crazy, not stupid.) Blame Muslims and you only succeed in misidentifying the source of the problem, resulting in us fighting against eachother instead of fighting with eachother against the real source of the problem.

    These acts have been happening for centuries. Before guns, before illegal immigration, before “gay rights”, before religion. Violently mentally ill people have been mass murdering people since day one. Throughout history we have largely been unable to address this problem beyond locking them up. That scenario became problematic with the abandonment of oversight in the asylum system, but rather than reform it we abandoned it and allowed all the violently mentally ill people to just roam the streets freely. This is the result. But this is also the 21st century. Mental health treatment has made enormous strides just in the last 25 years alone! We can now diagnose with extremely high rates of accuracy those people with illnesses which have high rates of attending violence. Many of these mental illnesses which produce these violent acts can be successfully treated. But here is the catch…with very few exceptions, treatment in this country for a mental illness has to be voluntary. Yet as we have already seen, for many of these people the illness precludes them from forming voluntary intentionality, at least from the legal standpoint. And involuntary treatment usually has to involve demonstrated danger…meaning we have to wait until they have done something to hurt people first. And even then, we do not have facilities to securely house the dangerously mentally ill for longer than a few weeks. Meaning even when treatments start to help a person, they are not staying long enough to get well, and they are being released into the public again, where without the support of a medical staff they stop taking their medicines and relapse into violence again…usually worse off than they were before.

    We have the knowledge and the ability to address these violent acts in a very meaningful and positive way. We have to demand the tools be given to the public by the government. But before we can even do that, we have to as a nation, correctly identify what the problem really is. The problem is not gays, Muslims, or guns. The problem is the violently mentally ill. We need them to be identified and held securely and safely away from the rest of society until they can be fully treated. Anything short of doing that will insure that these acts of horrific violence not only continue, but escalate.