WASHINGTON » Continuing a grim ritual of his time in office, President Barack Obama plans to meet with families of victims of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the White House said today.
The meeting in Southern California is set for Friday. It was added to Obama’s long-scheduled trip to Hawaii for Christmas vacation.
“While he is en route to Honolulu, the president will stop in San Bernardino, California, to visit privately with the families of the victims of the terror attack in San Bernardino that occurred earlier this month,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
Fourteen people were killed and 21 others were injured at a workplace holiday party in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 by a gun-wielding husband-and-wife team. Federal authorities say the pair had become self-radicalized in the years before Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, opened fire on Farook’s co-workers. The couple was killed during a subsequent shootout with police.
During a televised address in the anxious days after the shootings, Obama said authorities had found no evidence that the American-born Farook and his Pakistani wife had carried out instructions from an overseas-based terrorist organization or that they were part of a broader conspiracy based in the U.S.
“But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West,” Obama said from the Oval Office. “So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.”
The shootings closely followed the Nov. 13 attack on Paris that left 130 people dead and for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.
Both attacks have heightened public fears about future attacks on U.S. soil, concerns that Obama has tried to allay with the rare Oval Office address on administration efforts to counter the threat from the Islamic State group, as well as a series of public appearances by the president this week.
Obama met with his national security team at the Pentagon on Monday, instead of their usual location in the White House Situation Room. He followed the meeting with a public update on the effort to counter IS, saying the U.S. and its partners were going after the group “harder than ever.” Obama also plans to visit to the National Counterterrorism Center in suburban Virginia on Thursday for an annual, pre-holiday briefing that in past years has been held at the White House.
The pair of attacks has also led to calls for tighter visa screenings for people entering the U.S. and for the immigrant brides-to-be of American citizens. Malik came to the U.S. in 2014 on a K-1, or fiancee visa. Obama has also called on Congress to pass legislation to block firearm sales to people whose names are on the federal no-fly list for air travel.
Obama has vowed to call for new gun-control measures after every mass shooting. The White House is considering acting to expand gun background checks without congressional approval.
Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said last week that the president has asked his team for a proposal soon. She said the recommendations will include measures to expand background checks.
Friday’s stop will be the latest in a grim ritual Obama has performed since taking office seven years ago: visiting communities stricken by deadly mass shootings to offer solace to grieving relatives, beginning with the shooting at Fort Hood in Texas near the end of his first year.
Most recently, in October, Obama met privately with families of the victims after a student gunman killed eight students and a teacher at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., before turning the gun on himself.
During a previously scheduled trip to Paris last month to attend an international climate conference, Obama laid a rose at a memorial outside a concert hall where many of the victims in that attack were killed.
The first family is scheduled to arrive late Friday or early Saturday for their annual two-week vacation in Hawaii over the holidays.