President Obama wasn’t the only one talking about guns and terror in the wake of last week’s brutal San Bernardino, California, shootings, but there was little bipartisan consensus Sunday on whether the two issues are related.
The Obama administration has pushed for tighter restrictions on gun sales and proliferation in the country, and Mr. Obama has said his inability to create stricter national gun laws in his seven years in office is his “biggest regret.”
But Republicans, including several top contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination, were out in full force Sunday, accusing the president and top Democrats of politicizing a tragedy and highlighting the wrong issue in the face of a terror attack.
“This is the typical liberal approach to things,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “They wanted to try to turn this awful tragedy into an excuse to have greater gun control, when what we really need is greater intelligence, which the president has taken away from this country.”
Businessman and GOP front-runner Donald Trump argued that taking guns off the streets actually made people more vulnerable, describing himself as “a big believer in the Second Amendment.”
“In Paris they had no guns. In California they had no guns. Only the bad guys had the guns,” Mr. Trump said on “Face the Nation.” “So they were like sitting ducks, every one of them.”
Republican rival Ben Carson said strict gun laws simply would not work, and argued for better mental health care.
“People who are mentally unstable, that’s what we need to be looking at. Whenever we have these discussions, we need to put the two things up side by side,” the retired neurosurgeon said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Second Amendment rights, [the] ability to screen and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of unstable people — put those up together and then work toward a solution that accomplishes both of those goals.”
Mr. Obama has pushed to keep guns out of the hands of those on the national no-fly and terror watch lists, but Senate Republicans voted down a proposal along those lines last week, arguing it infringes on civil liberties and comes with too large a margin for error.
“If these were perfect lists, that would be one thing,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and yet another 2016 hopeful, said. “But there are over 700,000 Americans on some watch list or another that would all be captured under this amendment the Democrats offered.”
The top Democratic 2016 hopefuls took to the airwaves Sunday in the president’s defense, calling for better firearms restrictions to keep the violence at bay.
“The NRA’s position always is, you know, if you can’t stop everything, why try to stop anything?” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s not the way law works. I mean, we have laws that are going to govern our speed limits on roads, knowing some people are going to violate it or people are going to drive drunk. But we still have laws.”
Mrs. Clinton and rival Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders called for comprehensive background checks and closing the so-called gun show loophole, where private sellers do not have to conduct a background check, record the sale or even ask for identification.
Mr. Sanders said he believed that some gun control was necessary, but that it needed to be coupled with better mental health services.
“We need a revolution in mental health,” he said on “Face the Nation.” “That revolution is about making sure that the many thousands of people who are walking the streets of America today who are suicidal or homicidal get the help they need, and they get it now, not two months from now.”
• Anjali Shastry can be reached at email@example.com.
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