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Obama Address Highlights Intensified Security Debate

  • Michael Bowman

President Barack Obama’s address on last week’s deadly shootings in California comes as two potent issues merge and overlap: international terrorism and gun control.

Islamic State-inspired carnage on U.S. soil is a concept many Americans find unnerving.

“It’s really scary because ISIS has bombs and everything,” said April, a California resident, using another acronym for the Islamic State. “And bombs could take out a whole city.”

“I mean, when the Paris thing happened, we heard on the news that obviously we (the United States) were targeted too,” said another Californian, Erika.

From the halls of Congress to the presidential campaign trail, the coming week is likely to bring many recommendations on what America must do to keep its citizens safe.

“We have a hidden enemy,” said businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. “We’ve got an enemy that doesn’t wear uniforms. An enemy that’s very vicious, very violent, very sick. And we’ve got to take them out.”

General agreement, but rifts on approach

Taking the fight to Islamic State is a rare point of bipartisan agreement.

“They have to be defeated,” said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “And that means taking them on in the air, taking them on on the ground, and taking them on in cyberspace.”

Even so, ideas about what to do expose deep partisan rifts.

“We need to renew the assault weapons ban,” said Senator and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders. “We need to end the sale of high-capacity magazines. We need to make gun trafficking a federal crime.”

Big issue: gun control

Gun control is a non-starter for many Republicans.

“The left’s immediate reaction to Islamic terrorists, like kittens with their eyes closed, is not to go after the bad guys, but immediately to try to seize the guns of law-abiding citizens,” said Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Even the terms used to frame the debate on violence and terrorism are contested.

“Call it for what it is. This is a fight for Western civilization,” said Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush on ABC’s This Week. “They (Islamic State) have declared war on us.”

President Obama has declined to use the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ and Clinton says that’s the right call.

“That sounds like we are declaring war against a religion,” Clinton said on This Week. “It helps create this ‘clash of civilizations’ (concept) that is actually a recruiting tool for ISIS and other radical jihadists.”

The Republican-led Congress has until week’s end to extend the U.S. government’s spending authority and avert a partial shutdown. The San Bernardino attack and Obama’s national address assure that Washington’s attention will be divided.

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