Guess which issue GOP candidates don't want to discuss after the latest mass shooting

The Republican reaction ranges from impotent to downright dismaying

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published October 2, 2015 2:56PM (EDT)

 Donald Trump (AP/Julie Jacobson)
Donald Trump (AP/Julie Jacobson)

"Somebody somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue," the President said during an impassioned and frustrated speech addressing the latest mass shooting at a small community college in Oregon yesterday.

"Well this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic," President Obama insisted.

A gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, and injured seven more before being shot by police.

As President Obama urged news organization to show the statistics of gun deaths and deaths caused by acts of terrorism for a side-by-side comparison, and called on Americans to hold their lawmakers accountable for inaction on what he called an epidemic, presidential candidates on the 2016 trail have taken strikingly different positions on the prevention of gun violence.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders took decidedly different tones addressing the 45th school shooting this year -- the 994th mass shooting in just the last three years, but seemingly arrived at remarkably similarly grim conclusions about the likelihood to affect change.

"We're tired of sending condolences and we know that it could happen tomorrow, it could happen again a month from now," Sanders told MSNBC's Chris Hayes, echoing President Obama's sentiments.

“I know him well enough to know that this was very personal for him," Sanders said of President Obama, who delivered his 15th national address in the aftermath of a mass shooting. "He is disgusted, he is angry, he is sick and tired — as we all are — of sending our condolences to the families of people who have been murdered in cold blood.”

But when Sanders was pressed by Hayes on his vote against the Brady bill and past endorsement from the NRA, Sanders offered this bit of nuance:

I don’t know that anybody knows what the magic solution is. What we do know is the current situation is not tenable. It is clearly not working. And as the president indicated, we can and must do a lot better … You can sit there and say I think we should do this and do that. But you’ve got a whole lot of states in this country where people want virtually no gun control at all. And if we are going to have some success, we are going to have to start talking to each other.

Rather than sounding impassioned to act following news of the shooting, the normally blustery Trump took on a more resigned tone.

"So many of these people, they're coming out of the woodwork," Trump told the Washington Post's Phillip Bump."It's happening more and more. I just don't remember -- years back, I just don't remember these things happening. Certainly not with this kind of frequency," Trump said, calling this latest incident "another mental health problem."  

"It's not politically correct to say that, but you're going to have difficulty and that will be for the next million years, there's going to be difficulty and people are going to slip through the cracks," Trump said.

Trump argued that "we have to really get to the bottom of it," but seemed to dismiss the need for any further regulations on gun ownership, eventually endorsing no plan of action.

"First of all, you have very strong laws on the books," Trump said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"[B]ut you're always going to have problems. We have millions and millions of people, we have millions and millions of sick people all over the world. It can happen all over the world and it does happen all over the world, by the way. But this is sort of unique to this country, the school shootings. And you're going to have difficulty no matter what."

Rival Jeb Bush was actually the first 2016 candidate on either side to comment on the shooting, offering his prayers on Twitter without even referencing the mass shooting:

A host of other Republican presidential candidates followed suit, offering their condolences via Twitter while staying far away from talk of guns or gun control:

Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley called out his fellow presidential aspirants on the Republican side:

Speaking with local Boston reporter Janet Wu, Hillary Clinton pledged to lead the formation of a pro-gun control group to rival the NRA.

"I'm going to try and do everything that I can as president to raise up an equally as large and vocal group that is going to prove to be a counterbalance," Clinton said.

The campaigns of Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie haven't even commented on the shooting at all. Rubio, if you recall, was notably mum following this summer's gun massacre in Charleston:

At least Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich had the decency to accurately describe the tragedy as a shooting:

Other Republican candidates did tackle the issue of gun control, but only to knock down the idea.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson happened to be on right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program following news of the shooting and promptly denied that gun control could help to prevent such an incident.

“Obviously, there are those who are going to be calling for gun control,” Carson said. “Obviously, that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people.” He argued that instead of focusing on guns, “early warning clues” should be heeded by people closer to the shooter in order to prevent such shootings.

Bobby Jindal also offered his condolences during the "Hugh Hewitt Show" while the news was breaking but quickly touted his NRA endorsement to fend off talk of further gun control and to denounce the so-called politicization of gun deaths:

I’m not for additional restrictions on law abiding citizens. What we’ve done in Louisiana, and this is endorsed by the NRA, we passed a law a few years ago that made sure that the mental health records of those that for example have been forcefully admitted into a mental hospital, those that have been through a process, whether it’s a judicial process or another process, that those records are entered into their national background check system, because there are folks that are, under our current laws, you know, if they didn’t do that process, if a court has decided that they’re not supposed to have guns, they’re not allowed to buy those guns. And we did that law to make sure those records were entered into the system. What I’m not for, too many times politicians try to use these tragic events as an excuse to pursue their agendas when it comes to gun control. I’m not for restrictions on law abiding Americans’ right to have guns. I think we’ve got to be very careful. There needs to be a due process. There needs to be, and in this case, there is. We passed a law to make sure those records would be entered into the national background check system.

Desperate Mike Huckabee went with the tried and true attack on President Obama for being "quick to admittedly politicize this tragedy to advance his liberal, anti-gun agenda," in his latest Facebook rant.

Huckabee did at least offer up one "solution" -- albeit one that would allow for more, not less guns -- suggesting the prohibition of gun free zones. "Obama can shamelessly try and exploit any tragedy he wants, but it's clear that gun free zones are sitting duck zones," he wrote:

We hardly know any of the details about this horrific tragedy - What kind of gun was used? How did the shooter obtain...

Posted by Mike Huckabee on Thursday, October 1, 2015




By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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