On the presidential campaign trail, in the White House and on Twitter, it was as though politicians were responding to completely different events.
After the shooting rampage in San Bernardino, Democrats forcefully demanded a tightening of the country’s gun laws, laying blame on a culture that allows even people who are not permitted to board airplanes to buy guns with ease. Republicans talked of an entirely separate policy failure, drawing on news reports that the massacre may have been spurred by religious extremists to warn that the country is under attack and ill-equipped to deal with it.
The starkly disparate takeaways from the rampage showed the distance between the two parties on an issue that has become increasingly vital to Americans: their personal safety in the face of mass violence and terror. The rampage put presidential candidates in a quandary on a day when almost all of them were holding public events and found themselves under pressure to address the violence in California, even as the facts remained murky.
As more details about the attackers were made public through the day, GOP candidates — nearly all of whom spoke at a Washington forum hosted by the hawkish Republican Jewish Coalition — issued increasingly harsher attacks on what they said was the Obama administration’s unwillingness to come to terms with the true threat posed by Muslim extremists.
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