President Obama, speaking publicly after meeting privately with the loved ones of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims in Orlando today, called for stronger U.S. gun laws and for an end to anti-LGBT discrimination and violence, both here and around the world.
"This was an act of terrorism, but it was also an act of hate -- an attack on the LGBT community," the president said in taped remarks broadcast on television this afternoon. He is expected to speak with reporters later today.
The Pulse, he said, was a haven for LGBT people, a place where they could be themselves, and "Sunday morning that sanctuary was violated in the worst way possible."
"Hatred of people due to sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a betrayal of the best in us," Obama continued. Expressions of bigotry against any group of people, he said, "feed something very dangerous in this world."
The outpouring of sympathy for the LGBT shooting victims has been at a level unimaginable just a few years ago, the president said, but hatred still exists. In the wake of the tragedy, it's important to work against anti-LGBT bigotry on a global level and also against the oppression of women, he said. The federal government will also be "relentless" against terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda, he said.
But given that Sunday's attack in Orlando and the one last December in San Bernardino, Calif., were committed by home-grown "deranged individuals," it will take more than military and intelligence agencies to stop such attacks. The Orlando shooting was carried out with "instruments of death" similar to those used in San Bernardino and in the 2012 attack on a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., he noted.
The political climate, he said, has made it easy for people "to buy extraordinarily powerful weapons," such as the assault rifle used by Omar Mateen at Pulse, "and they can do so legally." In a statement undoubtedly aimed at an argument made by the National Rifle Association and its supporters, he said, "The idea that there needed to be more people in the nightclub similarly armed defies common sense." Those who oppose gun restrictions, he said, should meet with the families of the victims from Orlando, San Bernardino, Aurora, and Newtown, Conn.
He said he is glad that the Senate is considering some gun control measures, which include stopping people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns and requiring background checks even when someone purchases a gun online or at a gun show instead of in a store. "I hope senators rise to the moment and do the right thing, and then I hope the House does the right thing," he said.
Vice President Joe Biden joined the president in his meetings with the families. They told the families "our hearts are broken too," Obama said, noting, "These fams could be our families. In fact, they are our families. They are part of the American family."
He said he and Biden also thanked Orlando's mayor, police chief, and sheriff, and praised the first responders, doctors, and nurses who have done their duty. Obama quoted one doctor as saying, "After the worst of humanity reared its evil head, the best of humanity came roaring back." The president agreed he'd seen of the best of humanity, and concluded by pleading that we all find the "resolve necessary to reduce the hatred in this world."
Watch clips of Obama's remarks below, and check back for updates.