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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

How the 2016 Presidential Candidates Reacted to the San Bernardino Shooting

Republicans seized on the threat of domestic terrorists. But they don't seem to eager to stop those terrorists from getting their hands on guns.
December 3, 2015, 8:21pm

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

On Thursday, one day after the horrific mass shooting that left 14 dead and 21 wounded in San Bernardino, California, Republican presidential candidates spoke to assembled members of the Republican Jewish Coalition. And unsurprisingly, several of them had terrorism on the brain.

Read: What We Still Don't Know About the Mass Shooting in San Bernardino

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who Wednesday tweeted his prayers and thoughts for the victims and families affected by the senseless tragedy, was feeling much tougher this morning. "This is yet another manifestation of terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism here at home," he told the RJC audience, according to Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel. This "horrific murder underscores that we are at a time of war, whether or not the current administration realizes it," he continued.

Appearing on stage later in the day, Donald Trump told the same group that President Obama's refusal to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism" was proof "there is something going on with him that we don't know about." Through a series of retweets, Trump indicated that when events like the one that occurred inSan Bernardino happen, he sees a bump in the polls.


Mike Huckabee also got in on the action, accusing the president of moving with "lightning speed" to push for additional gun control measures in the wake of Wednesday's shooting, while ignoring the threat of "radical Islamic terrorism."

What will it take for — Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee)December 3, 2015

It doesn't take a Harvard law degree to identify the inspiration and source of the San Bernardino slaughter: radical Islamic terrorism.

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee)December 3, 2015

Concealing the truth & ignoring the obvious for the simple sake of a pro-Islam PR campaign is an insult to the American people.

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee)December 3, 2015

Facts are facts, & this is clearly radical Islamic terrorism. It's time for — Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee)December 3, 2015

But for all of the GOP's concerns about the terrorists lurking in the homeland, they apparently aren't as eager to stop those terrorists from getting their hands on guns. On Thursday night, just 24 hours after the shooting, Senate Republicans—including Cruz and fellow Republican presidential candidates Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham—voted to block a proposal that would prohibit the sale of firearms to anyone on the government's no-fly list, among other gun control measures put forward by Democrats.

The vote adds to frustration over the Republican response to mass shootings. The party's presidential candidates faced a storm of criticism Wednesday night for tweeting seemingly hollow offerings of "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and families affected by the massacre in San Bernardino, while actively rejecting any suggestion that new gun control measures might be necessary to stop the almost daily mass shootings in the United States.


Praying for the victims, their families & the San Bernardino first responders in the wake of this tragic shooting.

— Jeb Bush (@JebBush)December 2, 2015

My thoughts & prayers go out to those impacted by the shooting in San Bernardino, especially the first responders. -John

— John Kasich (@JohnKasich)December 2, 2015

The palpable outrage reached its peak with Thursday's New York Daily News front page Thursday, widely criticized by conservative news sites like Breitbart and Glenn Beck's The Blaze, that boldly announced "God Isn't Fixing This."

This has been on the cover far too often. — New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews)December 3, 2015

Unlike Cruz and Trump, who were quick to jump to conclusions about the San Bernardino shooters' motives, Democrats, including Obama, has been more circumspect Thursday. "At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred," he told reporters at a White House briefing. Obama conceded that it could, indeed, be part of a terror plot, but that there may have been "multiple" motivations behind the incident.

Pivoting to the issue of gun control, Obama said that given the frequency of tragic events like the one in San Bernardino, Americans have begun to think that there's nothing that can be done. "As the investigation moves forward it will be important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do to make sure, when individuals decide they want to do somebody harm, we make it a little harder for him to do it," he said. "Because right now it's just too easy."

As Republican presidential candidates zeroed in on the threat of terrorism, Democrats echoed Obama's calls for additional gun control measures.


I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now. -H — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton)December 2, 2015

Bernie Sanders, too, is fed up.

Mass shootings are becoming an almost-everyday occurrence in this country. This sickening and senseless gun violence must stop.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders)December 2, 2015

Sanders isn't wrong. According to a tally compiled by the Washington Post, Wednesday's tragedy was the 355th mass shooting of the year.

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