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President Barack Obama met on Thursday with the 49 families of victims and the first responders in the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting —an action the president has decried as "an act of terror and an act of hate."
Obama said the city and nation were "shaken by an evil, hateful act" and an attack on the LGBT community, but added that through the pain, "most of all, there is love."
The president said that such love could shine as an example. So too, could America as a nation that values equality for all, he said.
"There is strength in our resilience," he said.
Obama spoke of the heartbreak the nation feels over young people struck down in their prime, spouses forever separated, the loving mother who gave her life to save that of a beloved child. The attack on the gay nightclub Pulse early Sunday — the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history — left 49 dead and 53 injured.
"These families could be our families," he said. "In fact, they are our family. They are part of the American family."
Earlier in the day, the president and Vice President Joe Biden visited a makeshift memorial at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and carried large bouquets of white flowers. They delicately placed the blooms among the balloons and other flowers left their by those who had come to honor the dead.
"Our hearts are broken, too," the president said. "We stand with you."
Obama also lashed out at the divisive politics he faults for the inability to pass meaningful gun control reform. The fight against ISIS will continue, the president said, and added that the nation must look internally to make it more difficult for gunmen to purchase weapons used to carry out mass shootings.
"Our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for a terrorist ...to buy extraordinary powerful weapons and they can do so legally," Obama said, adding that he held grieving parents who knew that "they don't care about politics. Neither do I. This debate needs to change."
"Those who defend the easy accessibility of assault weapons should meet these families," he said.
Early Thursday, Senate Democrats ended their nearly 15-hour filibuster and struck a deal with the GOP colleagues for a vote on banning people on the government's terrorist watch list from obtaining gun licenses and expanding background checks to gun shows and Internet sales. The Senate will begin the series of procedural votes on Monday.
Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, were greeted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who presented the president with a T-shirt featuring a rainbow heart and the hashtag #OrlandoUnited.
Investigators are trying to determine the motives of the gunman, Omar Mateen, who was killed by police amid a three-hour siege. They are continuing to interview his wife, but suggest he was a lone wolf terrorist who pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call made on the night of his rampage.
His father has said he was spurred by hate after seeing two men kissing.
Obama this week condemned the attack and called it "devastating" for all Americans, but cautioned against "dangerous" rhetoric that encourages discrimination against Muslims.