Familiar words: Obama calls for ‘basic steps’ in gun control after San Bernardino

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the shootings in San Bernardino, California during a meeting with his national security team in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington December 3, 2015. © Kevin Lamarque
After pushing strongly for gun control as the drama in San Bernardino unfolded on Wednesday, President Barack Obama backpedaled as more details emerged concerning the case, talking instead of “basic steps” to keep guns away from those who would “do harm.”

“At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred. We do know that two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday morning. “But we don’t know why they did it. We do not know at this point the extent of their plans. We do not know their motivations.”

“It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don’t know. It is also possible that this was workplace related,” the president said, urging the public to wait until the FBI investigation uncovers all the facts “before we issue any decisive judgments.”

Staying true to his position on gun control, Obama added that “right now it’s just too easy” for people to do harm to others, and that the government needs to take “basic steps that would make it harder – not impossible, but harder – for individuals to get access to weapons.”

San Bernardino authorities and the FBI have identified the two suspects in Wednesday’s deadly attack at the Inland Regional Center as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 27. According to the police, 14 people were killed and 21 injured in the initial attack. Farook and Malik were killed in a shoot-out with police on Wednesday afternoon. The authorities recovered two rifles, two handguns, a large quantity of ammunition, and several improvised explosive devices from the suspects’ car and residence.

Obama’s tone was somewhat different on Wednesday evening, as he learned of the attack while preparing for a scheduled interview with CBS.

“The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world. And there are some steps we could take not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently: common-sense gun safety laws, stronger background checks,” Obama said.

Those remarks were in line with the stance on gun control the president has voiced after every mass shooting incident since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws,” Obama said after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon in October.

“We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings,” Obama said after Umpqua, citing gun control measures taken in Britain and Australia – “friends of ours, allies of ours… countries like ours” – as an example.

“Each time this happens I’m going to bring this up,” he added.

Australia and the UK both enacted stringent control gun laws, which severely restrict firearm ownership, in the wake of mass shooting incidents in those countries. In the US, however, ownership of firearms is guaranteed under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted in 1791.