U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, responded to the deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando by saying members of Congress have been warned that something like this would happen and such attacks will continue if ISIS is not defeated.
American-born Omar Mateen on Sunday (June 12) entered the Eclipse nightclub in Orlando and began firing into the crowd. As of this posting, 49 are dead – including Mateen – and more than 50 were wounded. Mateen, who was interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 for his sympathies toward suicide bombers, claimed allegiance to ISIS prior to his attack. His ex-wife says he was mentally ill. Terrorism analysts say it is too early to know if Mateen was directly influenced by ISIS or was acting alone.
Boozman, Arkansas’ senior senator, issued this statement on Sunday: “I join every American in mourning for the victims of this horrific act of terror. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. ISIS and radical Islamic terrorists have repeatedly called on supporters to attack Americans here at home. This act of terrorism is an attack on our freedoms. Our country must have the resolve to defeat ISIS. As a country we need to do whatever it takes to destroy ISIS using whatever means possible to protect Americans at home and abroad.”
In a Monday morning interview on KASU, the public radio station affiliated with Arkansas State University and a content partner with Talk Business & Politics, Crawford said he believes ISIS was aware of the attack.
“It is obviously tragic. I am not sure that tragic is the right term. This was a planned attack. This was immediately, the ISIS elements in Iraq and Syria came out and praised it,” Crawford said. “The perpetrator called 911 and said he was acting in allegiance with and in accordance with ISIS.”
Crawford said the attack was something that Mateen had planned out and that the issue of terrorism should be addressed.
“This is something we have been warned about, something we have been concerned about,” Crawford said. “And it is something that will continue unless we assume a more aggressive posture.”
Crawford said the Obama administration has not been serious about dealing with terrorism.
“We will have to get serious about what this entails and where this comes from, what this stems from, an act of terror is indeed an act of terror,” Crawford said.
President Barack Obama on Sunday said the federal government will “spare no effort” to determine what involvement terrorist groups may have had with the attack.
“The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what – if any – inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us,” Obama said in the White House statement.
The President also said the shooting raises the question of gun laws.
“The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well,” Obama said.
On the issue of guns, Crawford said there needs to be an overview of the federal and state laws already on the books. However, Crawford said that Mateen went through at least three background checks, was investigated by the FBI and “managed to slip through the cracks.”
Following are other comments from Arkansas’ Congressional delegation and other individuals.
• U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Twitter
“My prayers, and the prayers of all Arkansans, are with the victims of last night’s attack in Orlando and their families. Grateful for the courage of the first responders and all law enforcement who responded to the attack in Orlando. Thank you for your service.”
• U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, on Twitter
“Praying for the victims, their families, and all involved in the horrible tragedy in Orlando.”
• Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., on Twitter
“Our prayers go to the victims, families & 1st responders in Orlando. This is a human tragedy & a national concern. #Heartbreaking.”
• Vince Insalaco, Democratic Party of Arkansas chairman
“Today, we awoke to the worst nightmare any parent or family member can face. An act of terrorism specifically targeting the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida, resulted in the deaths of 50 people and left dozens wounded. This brutal, horrific attack is not just an attack on the gay community. It is an attack on all Americans; it is an attack on that beautiful process in which we took part yesterday; it is an attack on Americans from different backgrounds, faiths, and circumstances.”
• Conner Eldridge, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate
“There are no words to accurately convey the loss and broken heartedness felt today. To the people of Orlando, those in the community and close to the victims: my sincerest prayers and deepest thoughts are with you. These types of acts of terror and hatred happen all too often, and we must come together as a nation to address them. I am committed to working with whomever it takes to ensure communities do not have to feel this type of devastation again. This is not a partisan issue – it is a safety and security one, and I’ll use the same, unapologetic approach as I had as a Federal Prosecutor in addressing it.”