After news emerged Friday that the female shooter in a deadly attack in California had pledged allegiance to ISIS, the extremist group issued a radio bulletin calling Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook “supporters.” The group did not claim to have planned or ordered the attack.
The mass shooting in San Bernardino, which killed 14 people who had been attending a holiday party at a social services center, prompted President Obama to call for tighter gun control laws – and to pledge that investigators will “get to the bottom” of the case.
In his weekly radio address released Saturday, Obama said: “We are Americans. We will uphold our values — a free and open society. We are strong. And we are resilient. And we will not be terrorized.”
The president’s speech aired the day after a federal source told NPR that Malik had pledged her support to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by using a Facebook account that was created under an alias. Both Malik and her husband were killed later, in a shootout with police.
That federal source also cautioned that investigators had no reason to believe ISIS had played a role in plotting the attack. Instead, the FBI is exploring the idea that the couple may have become “self-radicalized” somehow, taking their inspiration from ISIS.
Update at 3:25 p.m. ET: U.S. Sees No Sign Of Broader Involvement
After President Obama received an update on the San Bernardino investigation Saturday, the White House released a statement saying “The President’s team also affirmed that they had as of yet uncovered no indication the killers were part of an organized group or formed part of a broader terrorist cell.”
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According to jihadist monitor SITE Intelligence, ISIS made two statements about the California attacks today — in Arabic and English — calling Malik and Farook supporters and martyrs.
On Friday, the FBI’s David Bowdich, assistant director of the Los Angeles office, said the agency is “investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism.”
In the U.S., the shocking attack has also prompted new calls for gun control, with President Obama saying today:
“For example, right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun. And so I’m calling on Congress to close this loophole, now.”
A call for changing America’s gun laws also sparked what is reportedly the first front-page editorial by The New York Times since 1920, with the paper’s editorial board demanding an end to “the gun epidemic in America.”
From that editorial:
“It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection.”
As member station KPCC reports, while the two rifles recovered from the San Bernardino attackers were bought legally, they were also found to have been modified in ways that made them illegal under California’s assault weapons ban. One could accept a high-capacity magazine — and could be reloaded more rapidly than allowed under law — while the other had been (apparently unsuccessfully) modified to make it fully automatic.
Military-style weaponry has also been part of the discussion about what tools civilian police forces should have in the U.S., where recent cases of police shootings have led to a push for police to think of themselves not as warriors but as guardians of the public’s safety.
NPR’s Martin Kaste explored those questions in the light of the San Bernardino attack, for a report on last night’s All Things Considered.
Noting that military-style equipment drew negative attention during last year’s protests in Ferguson, Mo., Martin spoke to San Bernardino SWAT team commander Lt. Travis Walker, who told him that the attack shows why police have such gear.
“Society has changed, weaponry has changed that individuals have access to,” Walker said. “And it’s not that we seek to militarize law enforcement. The goal is to try to make sure that we reduce the number of human casualties.”
Another view came from Sue Rahr, who runs Washington state’s police academy — and who urges police officers to see themselves as guardians, rather than warriors.
“Frankly, the most important thing we can do is figure out ways to prevent or predict when these are going to happen so we can stop them before they happen,” Rahr said, “because there’s no way — with the best training and equipment in the world, we [only] have about two or three minutes before the worst of it is usually over.”