Obama: ‘We will not give in to fear or turn against each other’

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered flags lowered to half-staff Sunday as Connecticut joined President Obama and the nation in mourning the murders of 50 people in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub, an act of terror and the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other,” Obama said from the White House. “Instead, we will stand united as Americans to protect out people and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.”

The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut expressed a similar sentiment.

“We add our voices to those Muslim organizations who have taken a stand against this horrific mass shooting/act of terror by a deeply troubled individual,” the coalition said. “Our prayers are for the victims and their families. We mourn the loss of innocent lives. Islam does not allow the killing of innocent civilians. We would like to express our sorrow and solidarity with all Americans in mourning this tragic loss of life.”

Malloy made no statement in issuing the order to lower flags, but other Democrats were quick to denounce both the shooting and congressional reluctance to strengthen controls aimed at preventing gun violence.

Press reports Sunday said the shooter, Omar Mateen, legally bought a long gun and a pistol, believed to be those used in the shooting, in recent weeks. Florida state records show Mateen had two firearms licenses, a security-officer license and a statewide firearms license, the Wall Street Journal reported.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a congressman whose district included Newtown when 26 children and staff were shot at Sandy Hook elementary school, reacted to the shooting before law enforcement officials disclosed that the Orlando shooter, a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, had declared allegiance to ISIS before attacking a gay dance club.

“I’m aching for the victims, their loved ones, and the people of Orlando, and I pray that all those injured have a quick and full recovery. I know the pain and sadness that has brought too many communities – Newtown, Oregon, Aurora, San Bernardino, and now Orlando – to their knees, and I can only hope that America’s leaders will do something to prevent another community from being added to the list,” Murphy said. “This phenomenon of near constant mass shootings happens only in America – nowhere else. Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence. This doesn’t have to happen, but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing – again.”

Police said the gunman, who was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police, was armed with a handgun and an AR-15-style rifle, the same type of semi-automatic, military-style weapon used kill the Sandy Hook victims in minutes.

 “The Senate’s inaction on commonsense gun violence prevention makes it complicit in this public health crisis,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “Prayers and platitudes are insufficient. The American public is beseeching us to act on commonsense, sensible gun violence prevention measures, and we must heed that call.”

Scott Wilson, the president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a major gun owners group, complained that Murphy and Blumenthal were too quick to make a political point.

“While CCDL members and most compassionate Americans are still thinking only of the victims and families of this horrific act, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy are more concerned with advancing their political careers. Once again our two senators are calling for more laws that would only impact persons who actually obey the laws of our society,” Wilson said. “The individual who perpetrated this mass shooting broke numerous laws, and it is bordering on insanity at this point for those looking to score political points over this incident to believe otherwise.”

State Rep. Dan Carter, R-Bethel, a Republican candidate for Blumenthal’s seat, urged restraint.

“It is to early too assign blame and we should guard against vilifying groups of people or using this tragedy to push agendas,” Carter said. “In the hours and days ahead we will get more details and can more intelligently discuss what we need to do as a nation to stop these horrific incidents that play out far too often in our country.”

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, who succeeded Murphy in the House, noted that the attack took place during LGBT Pride Month on a day of gay pride parades.

“We do not yet know what motivated this horrific act of terrorism. But the fact that it targeted a mainstay of Florida’s LGBT community as communities throughout our nation gather to celebrate LGBT Pride Month only adds to our immense grief,” she said. “Let us always remember that hatred or violence targeting any community – whether based on religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or anything else – is a betrayal of our values as Americans. Such actions are as wrong today as they were yesterday, and we must not forget that.”

Her Republican opponent, Sherman First Selectman Clay Cope, who is gay, issued a statement tightly focused on terrorism.

“This tragic event appears to be the worst terrorist-style mass shooting in our nation’s history, and underscores the seriousness of the threat we face from those who want to instill fear, undermine our will, and ultimately destroy our liberties and way of life,” Cope said. “The authorities need to conduct their investigation to learn about the motivation for this event, and if and how anyone else was involved. We hope this investigation is concluded as quickly as possible – so an appropriate reaction can occur.”

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, said joined those calling for background checks.

“Minimally, Congress should take a vote on universal background checks,” Larson said. “We owe that to the public. Whether you agree or disagree that all gun purchases should require a background check, it is our responsibility to vote. It is past time for Congress to take its head out of the sand.”

The president also said the shooting demonstrated the need for common-sense gun controls, calling it “a reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or a house of worship or a movie theater or a nightclub.”

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