The December 2 tragedy in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead and 21 people wounded has once again led to heated rhetoric on both sides of the political aisle. Most of the contentious remarks deal with the issue of gun control and whether or not current laws are inadequate to stop or at least limit such shootings in the future.
Democrats are primarily behind stricter gun control enforcement, while Republicans are almost exclusively against such measure, citing the rights specified in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
In the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, President Barack Obama used his weekly address on December 5 to advocate for eliminate what he perceives as a major loophole in stopping the problem of domestic terrorism.
He began by first offering sympathies to the citizens of that affected city and acknowledging the efforts of first responder units, such as police, EMT’s and SWAT teams. In the latter case, he noted that the group’s collective efforts helped save lives.
That was quickly followed by criticism of the fact that the two killers had used assault weapons that have the capability to kill groups of people in quick fashion. He also noted that under current gun laws, a person on the No-Fly list is able to go into a gun store and legally purchase a gun.
Describing the approach as “insane,” President Obama noted the irony of people who were deemed ineligible to board an airplane because of their perceived danger, yet were allowed to purchase weapons that could potentially kill other individuals. Obama then followed by imploring Congress to pass new legislation that would address the problem.
The reason for Obama’s comments about such a concept is that one day after the shootings, the Senate voted to reject legislation that would accomplish that goal. The lone Republican to vote for the proposed measure, which has frequently been brought up since 2007 was Mark Kirk of Illinois.
Though Obama is barred by the 22nd Amendment from running for president again, the issue will undoubtedly continue to be brought up as the race to succeed him takes shape during the 2016 presidential campaign. Many Democratic and Republican candidates have offered comments on such a measure, with the opinions once again following party lines.
One of the areas of debate that Republicans have focused on is the fact that the number of people on the list is vast, and in a number of cases, inaccurate. For example, Florida senator Marco Rubio and former Florida governor Jeb Bush have noted that singer Cat Stevens, journalist Stephen Hayes and even the late Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy (who died in 2009) are on the list, despite no evidence that they posed a threat to national security.
Other Republican contenders like Ohio governor John Kasich have stated their opposition based on the fact that putting terrorists on such a list would tip them off that they were under surveillance by the federal government.
The current Republican frontrunner, businessman Donald Trump, didn’t completely reject the idea, but indicated that he strong believed in the Second Amendment.
With regard to the Democratic side, current frontrunner Hillary Clinton strongly endorsed the concept. Meanwhile, her main challenger, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders simply stated that those who had been put on the list should not be given access to guns or other weapons.
Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley indicated that he would use Executive Orders to address the issue if he were elected. O’Malley’s comments concurred with a New York Times front page editorial that criticized the Senate vote’s rejection.