President Barack Obama Thursday used a speech in Orlando to call for stronger gun control laws, saying that "our politics have conspired" to make it easy for possible terrorists or "disturbed" individuals to buy powerful guns.
"Unfortunately, our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for a terrorist or just a disturbed individual like those in Aurora and Newtown to buy extraordinarily powerful weapons — and they can do so legally," Obama said outside the Amway Center in downtown Orlando with Vice President Joe Biden at his side.
"So today, once again, as has been true too many times before, I held and hugged grieving family members and parents and they asked why does this keep happening and they pleaded to do more to stop the carnage.
"They don't care about the politics," Obama said. "And neither do I and neither does Joe."
Both Obama and Biden spent about two hours meeting with survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting early Sunday and talking with family members of the victims. Forty-nine people were shot dead and as many as 53 were wounded.
The president and vice president also talked with local officials, medical personnel and other emergency personnel.
But the president used the opportunity to call for greater gun control, noting that both the Orlando attacks and San Bernardino shootings in December were "lone-wolf" assaults committed by "home-grown" terrorists living in the United States.
He also referenced the 2012 shootings in Newtown, Mass., and Aurora, Colo.
"If you have lone-wolf attacks like this, hatched in the minds of a disturbed person, then we're going to have to take different steps in order to prevent something like this from happening," Obama said. "Those who were killed and injured here were gunned down by a single killer with a powerful assault weapon.
"The motives of this killer may have been different than the mass shooters in Aurora or Newtown," he added. "But the instruments of death were so similar.
"We can't anticipate or catch every single deranged person that may wish to do harm to his neighbors or his friends or co-workers or strangers. But we can do something about the amount of damage that they do.
"This debate needs to change," the president continued. "It's outgrown the old political stalemates.
"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 commonsense. Those who defend the easy accessibility of assault weapons should meet these families and explain why that makes sense.
"They should meet with the Newtown families, some of whom we saw yesterday whose children should now be finishing fifth grade and why we think our liberty requires these repeated tragedies."
He praised the Senate for agreeing to hold votes next week on expanding background checks and banning gun sales to suspected terrorists, saying that "I truly hope that senators rise to the moment and do the right thing.
"I hope that senators who voted 'no' on background checks after Newtown have a change of heart — and then I hope the House does the right thing and ends the plague of violence that this causes to end so many young lives.
"I've said this before," the president cautioned, "we will not be able to stop every tragedy. We can't wipe away hatred and evil from every heart in this world.
"But we can stop some tragedies. We can save some lives. We can reduce the impact of a terrorist attack if we're smart.
"And if we don't act, we will keep seeing more massacres like this," Obama said. "Because we'll be choosing to allow them to happen."
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