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Sen. Carper echoes Obama's pledge to destroy ISIS, calls for stronger gun laws

Delaware Public Media

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper says the President took the right tone in a primetime speech Sunday night as he pledged to defeat ISIS while promoting peace with American Muslims.

It came as FBI officials say they now know both perpetrators in last week's mass shooting, which killed 14 people and wounded 21 others in San Bernadino, Calif., were radicalized. The female perpetrator in the attack had pledged her support for the self-proclaimed Islamic State on Facebook.

In only his third-ever address from the Oval Office, Obama said the U.S. would break down ISIS with the help of foreign partners through intelligence and air strikes, while maintaining a limited ground force in Syria and keeping large numbers of American troops out of long-term conflict.

Carper says that's the right approach, along with stronger controls on the slow-moving visa programs that let refugees into the U.S., as well as those for students, tourists and others.

But he says those channels are not where terrorists will likely originate.

"My greatest concern is folks who become radicalized, often through social media, or maybe -- maybe -- having been to Syria, maybe having been to Iraq, but for the most part never having been any of those places and just getting radicalized over the Internet," he says.

The best way to fight that, he says, is to partner with Muslim communities in America to "make sure that folks are on the lookout," and to continue to systematically drive back ISIS overseas.

"A lot of the people over here that are interested in signing up to either help ISIS or some other terrorist group over here, or to go overseas -- they want to be on a winning team. And as long as ISIS is seen as a winning team, they can actually have success in recruiting people, even if those recruits just stay here," Carper says. "If, on the other hand, we continue to degrade and destroy ISIS, they will clearly become a losing team, and not as many people want to be a part of a losing team."

Also on Sunday, Obama addressed another aspect of the San Bernadino shooting that's been making headlines: gun control. Officials have said the shooters apparently bought their assault-style weapons and massive amounts of ammunition legally.

Carper echoed the President in saying that signals a need for some "common sense" changes.

The senator, himself a gun owner, says lawmakers should act to close loopholes that let people on terrorist watch lists buy guns, and that eliminate background checks at gun shows for those with mental health problems or felony convictions.

But he says he's not sure that can happen as long as the Republican majority in Congress continues to oppose such changes.

This story has been updated.