U.S.

President Obama Addresses Nation About Terror Threat, Gun Control

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President Barack Obama speaks about counterterrorism and the U.S. fight against ISIS during an address to the nation from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on December 6. Saul Loeb/Pool/Reuters

Updated | "ISIL does not speak for Islam," President Barack Obama said on Sunday evening during an address from the Oval Office.

In his first formal address since Wednesday's deadly shooting in San Bernardino, California—and only the third speech from the Oval Office during his time in office—Obama spoke about the threat of terrorism, gun control and religious freedom. 

The San Bernardino shooting was carried out by Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, at a holiday party hosted by Farook's employer. Fourteen people were killed and 21 were injured. Inside the couple's home, authorities found a dozen pipe bombs. Both Farook and Malik were killed in a shootout with police after the attack.

The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism, though the president stressed it's not yet known whether Malik or Farook were linked to a foreign extremist group. "The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their co-workers and his wife," Obama said. "The two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization." 

Obama stressed the importance of religious freedom in America and said Islam could not be judged on the acts of the Islamic State, nor of Muslims like Farook and Malik. He denounced the idea of starting a government registry of Muslim-Americans. "All Americans must reject discrimination, religious tests for those entering this country," Obama said. GOP leaders have called for such tests and registration during the presidential campaign season. 

Speaking more generally about the threat of terrorism, the president said the United States is working with foreign nations to fight the Islamic State and other groups like it. Obama stressed the importance of using airstrikes, special forces and intelligence sharing to do so. The U.S. has been working with Turkey to block off that nation's border with Syria, as that border is a common path for Western jihadists entering the Islamic State's territory.

"As commander-in-chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety of the American people," the president said. "The threat from terrorism is real but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL." U.S. government agencies and representatives use ISIL, an alternative acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, for the group more commonly referred to as ISIS. 

The president also briefly touched on gun control, as the San Bernardino attackers obtained their weapons legally. "What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist to buy a semi-automatic weapon?" the president said when speaking about legislation to prevent those on the No-Fly list from obtaining weapons. Currently, those who on the list are able to purchase weapons. 

The president also called upon Congress to limit the availability of powerful assault weapons, such as those used by Malik and Farook in San Bernardino. 

"Let's make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional," Obama concluded. "Freedom is more powerful than fear."

This story has been updated to include new information from the president's speech.