Lawmakers call for unity, prayer in aftermath of shootings

President Barack Obama said the shootings in an Orlando nightclub early Sunday, which he described as a “brutal murder, horrific massacre,” is being looked at as a terrorist act. (Photo courtesy

WASHINGTON – The reaction in Washington to Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando was swift and nearly unanimous, as statements and social media posts offered prayers and condolences for what the president called “a horrific massacre” flooded the web.

While some of the statements hinted at politics, most in the hours after the attack – called the most deadly in U.S. history – were like President Barack Obama’s. He called on the nation to pray for the victims’ families “who are grasping for answers with broken hearts,” and to stand with the people of Orlando “who have endured a terrible attack on their city.”

The remarks came in response to the attack early Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead as of Monday, in addition to the shooter, who claimed in a call with police dispatchers to have been motivated by ISIS. Another 53 were injured, according to the Orlando Police Department.

Obama and FBI officials said the motives of the shooter, Florida resident Omar Mateen, were still being investigated but that the case was being handled as a terrorism investigation. Authorities said Mateen, a U.S. citizen, appeared to have legally obtained the handgun and the AR-15 rifle used in the attack.

In remarks Sunday and again Monday, Obama said the shooting points out how easy it is to get deadly weapons, even for someone like Mateen who had been investigated by the FBI for terrorist sympathies.

Some Senate Democrats on Monday pledged to renew the fight for the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act. That bill, which would block gun sales to suspected terrorists and those on the no-fly list, has been sitting in committee without a hearing since being introduced in February 2015.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, tweeted out Sunday that his “heart breaks” for those affected by the attacks, but that it was a reminder of the need to take “weapons of war” off the streets and out of the hands of those with “the intent to kill.”

In a statement Sunday, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, extended “deepest condolences” in the attack and called on the nation to “do everything to root out terror.” By Monday, however, McCain was citing additional information in the investigation to take Obama to task for an “indecisive military campaign” that has yet to root out ISIS, which he said is the “result of the president’s failure to properly assess the nature of the threat.”

Other Arizona lawmakers steered clear of politics – for now – with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, tweeting out his “deep sorrow” and Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, expressed his sorrow via Twitter. He later posted a picture of a vigil at the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center saying, “Our hearts are with Orlando.”

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, was among the first Arizona lawmakers to respond Sunday morning to the shooting. She offered condolences, then suggested on the question of gun control that “there are sensible solutions we can pursue that both respect the Second Amendment and keep our communities safer.”

Obama on Sunday reminded the nation that “attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us.”

-Cronkite News video by Veronica Acosta