President Obama said Thursday he doesn't know the motivation for the brutal slaying of 14 people in San Bernardino as he called on lawmakers and citizens to help stop a seeming epidemic of mass shootings.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, a bleary-eyed Obama said he had just received a briefing from FBI Director James B. Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch and "it is possible" that the shooting rampage "was terrorist related."
But, he said, it's also possible that the violence was "workplace related."
"At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred," he said.
Regardless of the motivation, the president said Americans have to get over feeling "as if there is nothing we can do about it."
"We all have a part to play," Obama said, including "legislators" in the list of those who must work to make it more difficult for violent people to get access to weapons.
"Right now, it's just too easy," he said.
Obama was sober and serious, with bloodshot eyes, as he spoke. For days he had been dreading the upcoming third anniversary of the killing of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Now, as the details are slowly unfolding in the San Bernardino investigation, aides say he is more intent than ever in conversations with national security advisors and domestic policy advisers as they look for steps the administration can take to combat gun violence.
Administration officials are working urgently on executive actions Obama may take in an effort to cut into unregulated gun sales. Officials concede those steps might not have affected the San Bernardino shooting, however.
In his remarks, Obama said that what he could "assure the American people is we're going to get to the bottom of this and that we are going to be vigilant, as we always are, in getting the facts before we issue any decisive judgments in terms of how this occurred."
"We see the prevalence of these kinds of mass shootings in this country and I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there's nothing we can do about it," he went on. Though Americans are "fortunate" to have police and military personnel to keep them safe, he said, "we can't just leave it to our professionals to deal with the problems of these kinds of horrible killings. We all have a part to play."
Moments later, Obama ordered that all American flags be flown at half-staff around the country and the world in honor of the San Bernardino victims.
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