- Meeting was a reminder of what's good in the U.S., Obama says
- President and wife spoke to relatives for almost three hours
President Barack Obama met Friday night with the families of the 14 people killed in the Dec. 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, saying afterward that the relatives were “inspiring” and a “reminder of what’s good” in the U.S.
“We have to remind ourselves of the overwhelming good that exists out there,” Obama told reporters outside of Indian Springs High School, following an almost three-hour session in which he and his wife, Michelle, met and spoke privately with the family members of the victims of what is being investigated as a terror attack.
The president said it was “so moving” to talk with family members who represented every background, faith, and the strength, unity and love in the U.S. His visit comes a day after the arrest of Enrique Marquez, who authorities said had purchased assault weapons used in the attack by husband and wife Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The Maliks, who were later killed, are alleged to have discussed earlier possible attacks with Farook.
Families were “insistent that something good comes out of this tragedy,” Obama said.
Some of the family members told him they are speaking out for tolerance and how to prevent incidents like this from happening again, he said.
The Obamas made the California stop on their way to Hawaii with their daughters for an annual holiday vacation. The president will review in a matter of "weeks not months" final recommendations on how he can impose new gun restrictions without going through Congress, communications director Jen Psaki said earlier Friday.
Gun violence is "probably the issue that has touched him most personally over the course of his presidency," Psaki said at a meeting hosted by Bloomberg News in Washington. Obama "will not be satisfied" without action on guns before the end of his term, Psaki said.
The Justice Department is finishing recommendations for the president on how best to craft gun restrictions that don’t require legislation from Congress and can survive court challenges, Psaki said. The administration is considering a "range of steps that can be taken as it relates to the people who have access to guns" and "how people gain access to guns," Psaki said. She indicated she did not expect any action before Christmas.
“I’m not going to take anything on or off the table,” she said of options including closing the so-called gun-show loophole for background checks and a proposed ban on gun purchases by people on the federal “no-fly” list.
Connecticut’s governor, Dannel Malloy, wants to bar people on the federal no-fly list from buying guns in his state. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has gone further, proposing to ban gun purchases by anyone on the government’s broader terrorism watch list.
About 6,400 American citizens and permanent residents were on the no-fly list as of September 2014, according to congressional testimony by an FBI official. The list was created during President George W. Bush’s administration in response to the the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its broad criteria and the government’s policy of not notifying people before flagging their names have created travel problems for innocent Americans.