LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Let's pull together what is known about the San Bernardino shooting, starting with the man who knows something of the two suspects. Earlier this morning, we reached Hussam Ayloush.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
He's with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, which guided the suspects' family members through a short press conference yesterday. This morning, he talked with us about suspect Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik.
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HUSSAM AYLOUSH: They've been married for two years. They have a 6-month-old baby girl, whom they left with the mother. You know, according to the family, they had a good life. He had a good job. They're shocked by his actions. They're mourning with everybody else. And they wanted to make sure people heard that.
INSKEEP: Now, there's a very sensitive question here, which invites people to jump to conclusions. So let's just stress here, I'm asking this simply to get the facts and not saying what they mean. They're both Muslims. They were both Muslims. Is that correct?
AYLOUSH: They were both Muslims, yes.
INSKEEP: Is there any sense of what strand of that faith they were, whether they were particularly conservative or not?
AYLOUSH: You know, I'm very active at the various mosques in the area, and I don't remember seeing him. He's definitely not one of the prominent active ones, not on the board, not in the community. Obviously, the family seems to be moderately religious, but no signs of any fanaticism, extremism, as far as I could tell from the ones that I met. Again, I would also remind everyone that we don't know the motives yet.
AYLOUSH: You know, this could be, you know, workplace rage. It could be a result of some mental instability. Or it could be some twisted ideological belief. Either way, there's absolutely no justification. And all American Muslims, including the family of Rizwan Farook, express their solidarity, their condolences to the families and loved ones of the injured and the killed there.
INSKEEP: And just to gather information - and as you correctly note, not assigning motive because we do not know at this time - did either of them, according to their family members, have any particular political leanings at all?
AYLOUSH: No, they didn't seem like it. I asked that question. But as far as the family knew, there were no strong political or religious views either way.
INSKEEP: That's Hussam Ayloush speaking earlier today. He's with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, giving us some information about the suspects. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has also been gathering information from her sources, including, as we learned today, Carrie, the fact that there is a third, not suspect, but person of interest here.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Well, we do know that federal law enforcement believes all four weapons - the two assault-style rifles and two handguns the suspects, the two dead suspects, had on hand - were purchased legally. But I'm told by sources that at least two of those weapons may have been purchased by a third party. So investigators are in touch with that individual now - not clear any crime was committed. It could have been a legal sale and then gift. But yeah, one of many investigative threads they're pursuing all day today.
INSKEEP: And the biggest mystery here is why.
JOHNSON: Motive. And we're at cross-purposes here given the information we have. We know one of the suspects worked at that site. And so that may lean toward a workplace-related manner. But as we heard authorities say, they are not ruling out terrorism either - lots of open questions.
WERTHEIMER: Carrie, we also heard from President Obama this morning. His remarks make it clear just how uncertain motivate is at a very high level.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don't know. It's also possible that this was workplace-related.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Mara Liasson was at the White House. Mara, you were there when the president made these remarks. Do you - what does he want to do about this?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, the president wants to pass gun-control measures, gun safety laws. And he's wanted to for quite a long time. After every one of these shootings, he calls for tougher background checks, commonsense measures he thinks have popular support but can't get through the Congress. And he called for them again. I mean, he - obviously he gave his sympathies to the victims. He said we don't know the motives for this attack. But he said that everybody has to do their part. We can't just leave it to law enforcement.
WERTHEIMER: What do you think the prospects for gun control might be? Do you think that an event - we've had layers and layers of these kinds of events. And so far, nothing has happened except in a few states.
LIASSON: That's right. States have taken the lead here. I don't think the prospects for gun-control measures in this Congress have improved at all. I don't think anything's going to change there. What I think is interesting, though, is the kind of frustration that's building inside the - what you could call the pro-gun-control camp. There was a real backlash against the thoughts-and-prayers stance of a lot of Republicans - and Democrats too - are issuing tweets saying, my thoughts and prayers are with the families. But some Democrats are pretty angry at that. Chris Murphy, the Democratic Senator from Connecticut tweeted, your thoughts should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your prayers should be for forgiveness if you do nothing again. So I think there is a tremendous amount of frustration in people who support gun control. The Daily News, which is the more liberal New York tabloid's front page said, God isn't fixing this, and cowards who could end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes, so you've really got a lot of frustration.
INSKEEP: Pretty devastating headline. I want to ask a question about tone, though, Mara Liasson. Sometimes, when the president has spoken on this, he's sounded quite angry - overtly angry. Very restrained tone this morning, speaking very quietly, somberly, simply saying it is too easy - too easy for people to commit offenses like that. So you think that it's just chance, or taking a different approach?
LIASSON: Well, I think that sometimes, the president is angry. He's super-frustrated. And sometimes, that's come through in his remarks. What he isn't - that I've never heard the tone at least - is resigned. He keeps on talking about, we can't let this become normal. We can't just get used to this, as if this is something that just happens. But he was somber. The situation is still ongoing in California. And I think, you know, that was appropriate. But yes, in the past, he has shown flashes of real frustration. Some people would say anger.
INSKEEP: Let me just to bring in one more voice in the moment we have left. NPR's Phil Ewing covers national security. And Phil, I want to ask what national security agencies do in a situation like this, where, as far as we know, nobody knows what the motive is. Nobody knows who it's connected to. How do they respond?
PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Well, as we heard Carrie talk about earlier, it's going to be a very painstaking investigation. They're not only going to do a forensic investigation at these crime scenes to look at shell casings, blast patterns and so forth and so on, but also the social media that these people were using to try and find a pattern to try to establish a motive after the fact. One case that this brings to mind is the shooting in Chattanooga earlier this year, in which that person had been in the U.S. for a long time but all of a sudden, took this terrorist action and no one knows why.
INSKEEP: And the question is why. OK, thanks very much. That's NPR's national security editor, Phil Ewing. We also heard from our White House correspondent, or rather, national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, as well as NPR's justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson, on this morning as we're continuing to track the San Bernardino shooting.
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