Trump, Clinton weave Orlando shooting into campaign narratives

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (L), Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. © Reuters
US presidential candidates responded to the shooting in Orlando by trumpeting their ideological preferences. For Donald Trump, it was about immigration and "radical Islam"; for Hillary Clinton, an expansion of the security state and gun control.

In their statements on the mass shooting early Sunday that left 49 dead and dozens more wounded at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, the prospective presidential nominees for their respective parties, took the opportunity to highlight important campaign themes amid another tragic mass killing in America.

Trump, who has staked much of his campaign on severely limiting immigration into the US, bashed President Barack Obama and Clinton for not denouncing shooter Omar Mateen as a "radical Islamic terrorist." Mateen reportedly called 911 prior to the attack and pledged allegiance to the jihadist group Islamic State, (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL.)

“I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump previously called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." On Sunday, he indicated that children of migrants from the Middle East are also suspect. Mateen was a US citizen whose parents came to New York from Afghanistan.

"Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing," Trump said, claiming that the US admits "more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year" while "hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism" in the US since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Trump is scheduled to give a speech focusing on the Orlando shooting Monday afternoon in Manchester, New Hampshire. The speech was originally planned to center around Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore," Trump added in his statement. "Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen – and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can't afford to be politically correct anymore."

On Twitter, Trump said, "appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism."

Trump's bombast was again denounced by establishment voices in American politics, including Clinton's campaign.

“This act of terror is the largest mass shooting in American history and a tragedy that requires a serious response,” said Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, adding that “Donald Trump put out political attacks, weak platitudes and self-congratulations.”

Clinton is scheduled to issue her own speech on Monday from Ohio, which was originally planned to focus on Trump's campaign rhetoric, although she is now expected to discuss Orlando. In her statement Sunday, Clinton called the shooting "an act of terror" and appealed to allocating more resources to the national security state.

Clinton said: "We need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad. That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values."

The former secretary of state also expressed sympathy for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, especially given the massacre came in the middle of Pride Month, which is marked by parades and other celebrations of LGBT pride and solidarity around the nation. Clinton has received much criticism for her gradual support of full LGBT rights. In just the last few years, for example, she changed her position on same-sex marriage after decades of opposition.

Clinton also used the statement to highlight her gun-control policy positions, especially a ban on military-style assault weapons. Mateen reportedly used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that he legally obtained "in the last few days," according to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. AR-15 rifles were also used in mass shootings that took place in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015 and in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in December 2012.

Clinton said "we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violentcriminals. This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets."

On Monday, responding to Trump's chiding, Clinton told CNN that "it matters what we do more than what we say.

"And it mattered we got bin Laden, not what name we called him," she added. "I have clearly said we — whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I'm happy to say either. I think they mean the same thing."

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who trails Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, focused on gun control as well, calling for expanded background checks and closing a loophole in federal law that allows unlicensed firearm dealers to avoid running background checks on their customers.

"I believe that in this country, we should not be selling automatic weapons which are designed to kill people,” Sanders said in a statement. “We have got to do everything that we can on top of that to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them, criminals, people who are mentally ill.”