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US Gun Debate Needs to Change, Obama Says in Orlando

17 June 2016 11:55

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US President Barack Obama traveled to grief-stricken Orlando, meeting loved ones devastated by a shooting rampage and using his bully pulpit to demand that the Republican-controlled Congress pass gun control.

Four days after the worst mass shooting in US history, Obama made a solemn pilgrimage to meet staff at the Pulse nightclub, emergency responders and some of the dozens of families shattered by gunman Omar Mateen.

Forty-nine people were killed and 53 wounded when the 29-year-old Mateen — an American of Afghan descent — ran amok in a packed nightclub early Sunday, armed with a legally bought assault rifle.

Mateen — who pledged allegiance to the leader of Daesh (ISIL) during the attack — was killed in a police raid.

But his assault has fueled America’s poisonous partisan culture wars, prompting new salvos in bitter election-year rows over immigration, counterterrorism and guns.

After meeting the victims’ families, Obama said “our hearts are broken too” and insisted the tone of the country’s hyper-partisan debate on firearms “needs to change.”

Relatives of the victims “don’t care about the politics. And neither do I,” he said.

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