ITHACA, NY – Responding to American’s most recent and deadliest mass shooting, Congressman Tom Reed, who represents Tompkins County and the rest of the 23rd congressional district called for unity against the threat of radical jihadist terrorism.

In a call with reporters on Monday, Reed opened by offering his thoughts and prayers to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting and their families. The shooting occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub. 49 people lost their lives and over 50 others were injured.

“We need to address this issue as a nation, in a united fashion… I think it’s time that all elected leaders recognized that we are engaged in a war. A war of terror that is based on a radical, Islamic, terrorist, jihadist effort,” Reed said. Reed added that the jihadist ideology was not reflective of the greater Muslim ideology.

Reed also recognized the fact that the shooter was not an immigrant, but said that the threat the shooter represents is a persistent one.

“If we continue to think that this threat is not amongst us and also is trying to get here to american soil, I think we’re going to open ourselves up to greater risk going forward. So, securing our border has to be part of our conversation,” Reed said.

Reed also called for a reaffirmation of support for America’s intelligence agencies, so that they can prepare for and hopefully prevent such tragedies.

However, Reed was also critical of the FBI’s role in this incident, saying they should have done more to identify and mitigate the threat. The FBI had investigated the shooter three times prior to the attack, leaving many to wonder why he was able to purchase the weapons he used.

“I want to hopefully be a voice of unity, a voice of bringing us together as a nation  to recognize that we have a common enemy in this radical Islamic jihadist commitment,” said Reed. “In the agenda of ISIS. In the agenda of extremists that want to take America down, to take Americans down regardless of their background, of their sexual orientation, of who they are as individuals. More importantly they’re coming against our way of life.”

2nd amendment rights

Reed answered questions after his statement. The issue of gun control came up in several questions, with Reed remaining adamant that the jihadist ideology was at the center of the issue and that restricting American’s 2nd-amendment freedoms would not solve the problem.

“For the many people that have taken this situation and tried to make this an issue about gun control, I say you’re fundamentally then going down a path to change the constitutionally based freedoms that have made America great. Where does that lead us? I think we should focus on the enemy, not changing our way of life,” said Reed.

“This isn’t about gun control, this is about taking on the threat that is represented in the movement that is based on a perversion of the Quran that is being utilized to carry out an extreme, radical-islamic terror-based activity,” he added.

One reporter challenged Reed’s responses, pointing out that several recent mass shootings, such as the massacre at Virginia Tech, the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and the movie theater attack Aurora, Colorado.

Reed said that those cases were all united by one common factor: mental illness. He added that this was an area of broad agreement in Washington and he expected to see movement toward a mental health bill sponsored by Pennsylvania Congressman Dr. Tim Murphy.

Reed did later say that he was open to conversation about blocking people who were on the terror watchlist from getting guns — Senate Republicans had shot down such a bill last year. However, Reed stated he had concerns about people being mistakenly put on the list, and wanted to ensure that there was a due process and people’s 2nd-amendment right’s weren’t infringed.

He soon returned the radical Islam angle, however, this time taking an approach from the Donald Trump playbook: “When our president can’t even call it for what it is, that is a problem. We are not going to be able to overcome an enemy that our president, who keeps his head in the sand, is not even willing to identify,” said Reed.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.