© Greg Nash
Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE on Tuesday lashed out at those who blame Islam for the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Speaking at an impromptu press conference outside his campaign headquarters, Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the gunman’s motives are complicated and remain largely unknown.
“Was he motivated by the ideology of some fanatic Islamic organization which believes it is somehow heroic to mow down innocent and defenseless men and women?” Sanders asked.
“Was he motivated by homophobia and hatred of the gay community? Was he motivated by some kind of hatred of Latinos? Was he suicidal and wanted to end his life by taking others with him? We may never know the answer to those questions.”
Sanders noted that the attacker was one person, not an entire people or a religion.
“The Muslim people did not commit this act. A man named Omar Mateen did. To blame an entire religion for the acts of a single individual is nothing less than bigotry, and that is not what this country is supposed to be about.”
Mateen, American-born and of Afghan descent, killed 49 and wounded dozens more at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, in what is now being called the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Mateen, who was eventually killed by law enforcement in a shootout at the club, at one point called 911 to claim he had been inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The tragedy has sparked fierce public debate about intelligence gathering, gun control, immigration, political correctness, anti-gay bigotry, the threat of “lone wolf” terrorists and the nature of Islam.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE has responded by calling on the nation to crack down on legal and illegal immigration and to warn of the threat of “radical Islam.”
Sanders slammed Trump’s response.
“Our goal must not be to allow politicians, Donald Trump or anyone else to divide us up based on where our family came from, the color of our skin or our religion,” he said.
Still, Sanders acknowledged the threat from ISIS and demanded the organization be destroyed.
“This is a barbaric organization that has caused massive suffering,” Sanders said. “Hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. And let us not forget that most of the people who are suffering and dying as the result of ISIS are Muslims. And by the way, it is Muslim troops on the ground today who are taking the fight to ISIS as we speak and pushing them back and defeating them in Iraq and Syria. Muslim troops.”
Sanders also called for a ban on assault weapons. The killer carried a handgun and an AR-15 rifle with a high-capacity magazine that allowed him to shoot without stopping to reload.
“The idea that these types of weapons designed to do one thing and one thing alone — kill people — the idea they should be sold and distributed in this country seems to me to be terribly wrong. Those should be banned,” Sanders said.