Thursday, May 24, 2018
Politics

Orlando attack pushes gun control and terrorism into forefront of presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — The Orlando massacre thrusts the contentious debate over gun control into the election season and into Florida, a state that will likely decide the winner of the presidential race and where firearm regulations are already controversial.

But demands for a swift political response in Tallahassee and Washington were met with equally pitched alarm over the attacker's ties to terrorism and, as Sunday wore on, familiar and conflicting stances emerged between Democrats and Republicans.

"This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets," presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said Sunday.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, pressed for a aggressive approach to fighting terrorism and redoubled his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. His response feeds into a view that he says what many people think, but will not say: that Muslims are dangerous and politically correct responses don't keep us safe.

"When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?" Trump posted on Twitter. "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"

A day earlier in Tampa, Trump criticized Clinton on guns and advocated for arming people in order to fight back against mass shooters. "Let the bullets go in the other direction," he said, forming his hand as if he were holding a gun. "BOOM. BOOM. BOOM."

That dynamic — calls for new laws versus an all-out war on terror — will intensify in the coming days, reviving the discussion that followed the last mass shooting, in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

A day after that tragedy, the Senate defeated a measure to expand background checks on people who purchase firearms, underscoring the political muscle of the National Rifle Association.

It is against those odds that advocates for restrictions will try again.

"Tomorrow, when we return to Washington, we should have a moment of silence for the victims — immediately followed by a vote to close the loophole that allows people on the terror watch list to buy assault rifles — or any weapon," said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton said Sunday. "This isn't politics; it's common sense."

President Barack Obama, again confronting a deadly rampage in America, noted how the killer was armed with a handgun and AR-15-style assault rifle. He obtained them legally within the past week, authorities said, despite having been interviewed by the FBI in the past for unrelated cases that were closed.

"This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub," Obama said from the White House. "And we have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well."

Obama has unsuccessfully sought throughout his tenure to push new restrictions on guns, including a ban on assault weapons after the 2012 slayings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Now a new tragedy brings the debate into the center. Coming as the general election between Clinton and Trump is effectively under way, the shooting put a bigger focus on Florida, the nation's largest battleground state.

It is a state whose gun laws are constantly debated. Republicans, who dominate the Legislature, have pushed numerous freedoms for gun owners, many sought by the NRA.

Hours after the Orlando shooting, the League of Women Voters urged supporters to call on their representatives to act on gun restrictions. "We must have expanded background checks and extensive REQUIRED safety training for all permit holders," the group said. "This is a public safety issue."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott sidestepped questions Sunday over new gun regulations, and fellow Republicans generally steered clear of the issue, focusing on the lives lost and terrorism.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters in Orlando who asked about guns and terrorism: "The issue isn't the weapons they are using. The issue here is ideology."

Clinton has made gun control an issue in her primary battle with Bernie Sanders. She has called for "sensible action" to address gun violence, including comprehensive background checks and reinstating the assault weapons ban.

After more information about shooting came out, Clinton issued a statement that declared the murders "an act of terror" and "also an act of hate."

"For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad. That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home," she said.

"Finally," her statement read, "we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals."

Trump during his Tampa rally said Clinton "wants to abolish the Second Amendment" (a claim PolitiFact has ruled False) and take away people's guns. His comments about arming people to protect against attackers are not universally shared among Republicans, but a common sentiment is that more gun control is not the answer. Trump has tapped into fears over terrorism, and the Orlando attack could fuel an issue resonating with voters.

"If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore," he said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can't afford to be politically correct anymore."

Trump had planned a speech Monday in New Hampshire to attack Clinton as unfit to be commander-in-chief. He said Sunday that the speech would go on, but would "address this terrorist attack, immigration and national security."

Times political editor Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.

 
Comments
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Updated: 8 hours ago
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18