This week’s mass shooting in Orlando has reignited conversations about gun control, terrorism and Islamophobia. President Barack Obama addressed all three in a speech yesterday (June 14). In it, he addressed critics who said he should use the term “radical Islam,” called out people he feels are making political hay out of the shooting and pushed Congress to make it harder for would-be criminals to get their hands on guns. Here are a few key passages.
On gun control:
If we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from homegrown extremists, the kind of tragedies that occurred at San Bernardino and that now have occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that. We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents. It is absolutely true we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that, consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common-sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have. People with possible ties to terrorism who aren’t allowed on a plane shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun.
On the term “radical Islam”:
For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us—we can’t beat ISIL unless we call them “radical Islamists.” What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction….
There has not been a moment in my seven and a half years as President where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an advisor of mine said, man, if we really use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around. Not once. So if someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we’re fighting, if there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who our enemies are, that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we’ve taken off the battlefield….
We’re starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we’re fighting, where this can lead us. We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests that entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer—they were all U.S. citizens.
Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith? We’ve heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. It doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe; it will make us less safe—fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making young Muslims in this country and around the world feel like no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim Americans feel like they’re government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for. We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear—and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens. And it has been a shameful part of our history.