A sharp political debate broke out Sunday among the presidential candidates in the 2016 race over what lessons to take from the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., and whether tighter gun laws, better intelligence-gathering, or a more aggressive fight against the Islamic State terrorist group could help prevent more carnage.
Although the United States has long been divided over gun laws and national security, the latest massacre - an act of pre-planned terrorism that also bears the confused markings of a random workplace attack - has only muddled the question of which debate is more pressing.
There is mounting criticism of President Obama's strategy to defeat the Islamic State and his refusal to alter course despite evidence showing that the militant group's ability to sow terror beyond its home base has expanded in recent weeks. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that there were "indications of radicalism" in the San Bernardino attack. But her staff also told NBC of Obama's plan to urge Congress to look at certain gun-control measures, which he did in his televised address.
Speaking on ABC's This Week, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton tried to strike a similar balance, saying the U.S. needed to intensify its efforts against the Islamic State while also highlighting gun laws that allow "easy access" to weapons by fugitives, felons, and those on the terrorism watch list.
On the same show, Republican candidate Jeb Bush said the talk of guns was misplaced. "The first impulse of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is to have gun control. Let's have a strategy to take out ISIS there so we don't have to deal with them here," he said.
In a separate Sunday morning interview on CBS's Face the Nation, Republican candidate Donald Trump said the attack in California and an earlier slaughter in Paris might not have been so deadly if the assailants' victims also had been armed.
"You look at Paris, no guns - nothing," he said. "And you look at California, no guns. I can tell you one thing, if I'm in there and had a gun, we're going down shooting."
Trump also lamented the unwillingness of many Americans to report suspicious behavior among Muslims to police - something he blamed on political correctness.
Gov. Christie, also on CBS, said increased surveillance and creating relationships with mosques - not profiling - were the correct responses. "We did that after 9/11 and prevented attacks in New Jersey and all across the country," Christie said.
"I trust the intelligence community, they need more tools," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union.
Also on CNN, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he hopes the president will give intelligence officials broader access to phone records. The National Security Agency's mass surveillance program, under which the government held five years of phone records, ended a few days before the California attack on Dec. 2.