Beyond the tragedy in Orlando, Fla., Sunday morning in which to date 49 people were killed and 53 injured, five of them critically, another clash is becoming more imminent each day between two presumptive presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The largest mass-shooting massacre in the nation’s history has stunned the nation and brought responses that differ greatly between the candidates. They may agree that it was a hate crime committed at a gay nightclub and on the cowardice of Omar Mateen, who apparently either was inspired by or aspired to fulfill the wishes of ISIS.
They have different views, however, on the issue of assault weapons and whether they should be banned. Although it was initially believed that Mateen used an AR-15 assault rifle, he actually used a Sig Sauer MCX, a semi-automatic rifle that is considered an “assault-style” weapon.
Clinton, speaking in Cleveland Monday afternoon, realized there was no way the tragedy could be excluded from politics, particularly with Trump immediately seizing on it to score points and to cite his opposition to any banning of assault weapons.
“We need to keep guns like the ones last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals,” she declared. “Weapons of war have no place on our streets. This is a moment when all Americans need to stand together. No matter how many times we endure attacks like this, the horror never fades. Now we have to steel our resolve to respond.” Her comment about an officer whose life was saved by the helmet he wore was not wasted on an audience of workers employed at a company that makes helmets.
Clinton devoted much of her speech to curtailing the ability of civilians to get assault weapons without proper background checks. She also expressed concern about those not mentally suited to having them in the first place. Still, isolating and demonizing the Muslim community was counterproductive, she said. “We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating and isolating them.” That comment was aimed directly at Trump.
Trump’s immediate responses were freighted with “I told you so” kind of remarks, practically congratulating himself for his stance of keeping Muslims out of the country. As for assault weapons, Trump reported on television Monday that he had changed his position on the banning of assault weapons, one that he supported in 2000. “I changed position because we need protection in this country,” he said. “We need protection. We have to have protection. If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had. If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him, right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy.”
According to the Trump camp, the candidate will be addressing the attack in Orlando in New Hampshire more fully Monday evening.
Meanwhile, President Obama, a man Trump claims is incapable of saying the words “radical Islam,” said that the rampage was “an attack on all of us.” His remarks were limited because there was an ongoing investigation to determine the killer’s motives and if there was a direct connection to ISIS.
The FBI has released information indicating that Mateen placed a 911 call before carrying out his lethal mission. In the call, he is reported to have claimed allegiance to ISIS.
Moreover, his ex-wife said he was very abusive in their brief marriage and was basically unstable. Whether this contention is true will never be known because Mateen was killed in a shootout with officers who stormed the Pulse Club, hoping to rescue some of the hostages he took after shooting down others. Early reports indicate that 39 of the victims died in the club. Most of the first victims identified had Latino names, as it was Latin night at Pulse, the club where the shooting took place.
In response to Trump’s assertion that she was a “weak person,” Clinton said, “It’s time for statesmanship, not partisanship. I think our fellow American citizens expect that.” She invoked the memories of 9/11 and how the nation came together, galvanized by the attacks, not divided.
She called for a renewed feeling of “9/12.”