San Bernardino Shootings Divide Party Narratives

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 8.00.31 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN

Friday, December 4, 2015


Good Friday morning. The response to the shootings that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday drew bipartisan condemnation, stoked ideological fighting in Congress and prompted calls for action, though there was a divide among the presidential candidates over where the focus should be and where exactly the problem lies.

To listen to the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates describe the mass shootings in San Bernardino is to hear two separate realities.

In one, the Democratic hopefuls — Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Martin O’Malley — speak repeatedly about gun control. “No one should have that basic sense of safety and security ripped away from them,” Mrs. Clinton said in New Hampshire on Thursday. “The vast majority of Americans support common-sense steps to reduce and prevent gun violence,” she added, though later in the day she said it was becoming clear that the shootings were “an act of terrorism.” Mr. O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, and Mr. Sanders also called for changes to gun laws.

It was a different reality than the one described by a number of the Republican candidates. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas best captured the sentiment at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Washington on Thursday morning. “All of us are deeply concerned that this is yet another manifestation of terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism here at home,” he said.
For both parties, there is a grim view of a clear and present danger. But precisely which danger depends on which candidates were talking, and which voters they hoped to reach.