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Obama On Access To Weapons: 'It's Just Too Easy'


Let's round up what we know and what we continue to learn as we look at yesterday's shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. And it's a good moment to remember that this is one more day in which we're all figuring out the news together, in real time. Here is one of the latest developments. President Obama has been speaking just in the last few minutes to a few reporters in the Oval Office. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is here and has some notes on what the president's said. What is he saying, Tamara?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah, and he made this statement to a press pool. It was just a small group of reporters. And we're still waiting on the audio. And we don't have exact quotes. But from a pool reporter that was in there, we know that the president said that, of course, first, thoughts and prayers need to be with those who are affected. He praised law enforcement. And then he did also talk about this thing he's been talking about a lot, which is gun violence in America, the feeling that this is happening - these sort of mass shootings happen more here than in other places. And he said that Americans feel as if there is nothing we can do about it. But he says that everyone has a part to play. In particular, he called on legislators to do something. And there has been sort of a shift - he used to call on Congress. Now he calls on Congress as well as state legislatures to try to take - make changes in the gun laws, of course, acknowledging that no particular gun law necessarily would have affected this case.

INSKEEP: And let's bring up some sound of President Obama. We're able to listen now to his words.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who've been killed and to pray for a speedy recovery for those who were injured during this terrible attack. I had a chance to speak with Mayor Davis of San Bernardino. And I thanked law enforcement in that city for their timely and professional response. I indicated to Mayor Davis that the entire country is thinking about that community and thanked him and his office for the way that they've been able to manage an extraordinarily difficult situation with calm and clarity and very much appreciated the coordination that's been taking place between local law enforcement and the FBI investigators. At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred. We do know that the two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry at their homes. But we don't know why they did it. We don't know at this point the extent of their plans. We do not know their motivations. And I just received a briefing from FBI Director Comey as well as Attorney General Lynch indicating the course of their investigation. At this point, this is now an FBI investigation. That's been done in cooperation and consultation with local law enforcement. It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don't know. It's also possible that this was workplace-related. And until the FBI's been able to conduct what are going to be a large number of interviews, until we understand the nature of the workplace relationship between the individual and his superiors - because he worked with the organization where this terrible shooting took place - until all the social media and electronic information has been exploited, we're just not going to be able to answer those questions. But what I can assure the American people is we're going to get to the bottom of this and that we are going to be vigilant, as we always are, in getting the facts before we issue any decisive judgments in terms of how this occurred. More broadly, as I said yesterday, you know, we see the prevalence of these kinds of mass shootings in this country. And I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there's nothing we can do about it. We are fortunate to have an extraordinary combination of law enforcement and intelligence and military that work every single day to keep us safe. But we can't just leave it to our professionals to - to deal with the problem of these kinds of horrible killings. We all have a part to play. And I do think that as the investigation moves forward, it's going to be important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we're making it a little harder for them to do it because right now, it's just too easy. And, you know, we're going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder - not impossible, but harder - for individuals to get access to weapons. So there will be I think a press conference later today led by the attorney general. Director Comey will continue to brief not only the press but also members of Congress about the course of the investigation. Our expectation is that this may take some time before we're able to sort it all through. There may be mixed motives involved in this, which makes the investigation more complicated. But rest assured that we will get to the bottom of this. And in the meantime, once again, I want to offer our deepest condolences to those who have been - who have been affected by this terrible tragedy. And for those who have been injured, we hope that they get well quickly and that, you know, they're able to be back together with their families. OK? Thank you very much...

INSKEEP: That's President Obama speaking a short time ago at the White House, sitting in a chair in front of a fireplace that is decorated for the holidays and talking about yesterday's mass shooting, his tone different than on some other occasions. He's sometimes been angry after these mass shootings. He was quiet today but said it was simply too easy to commit such crimes. He also gave perhaps a bit of news, saying that in addition to the four weapons, the shooters were believed to have had at the attack, there were, quote, "additional weapons at their homes." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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