Pro-gun groups are fighting back after President Obama tied the issue of terrorism to guns in the wake of the California shooting, saying Democrats have overplayed their hand and predicting voters will reject calls for stricter controls.
Congress has already shown little appetite for changes, and gun rights advocates said it was strange that Mr. Obama focused on guns rather than on the radicalization of the husband-and-wife team that used semiautomatic weapons to kill 14 people and wound 21 others last Wednesday in San Bernardino.
“Gun control is no response to terrorism,” said Lawrence G. Keane with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, adding that the president laid out “no new initiatives or strategies” to combat the terrorist threat.
Guns had already become a hot issue in the wake of the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last month, which left three dead.
But the California shooting, which came soon after terrorists associated with the Islamic State, also known by acronyms ISIL or ISIS, used explosives and firearms to conduct coordinated and devastating attacks in Paris, have left Democrats trying to link the two issues together.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Mr. Obama called for new restrictions to make it harder for dangerous people to buy guns, pointing out that military-style weapons were used in the San Bernardino attack.
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“We may not be able to prevent every tragedy, but — at a bare minimum — we shouldn’t be making it so easy for potential terrorists or criminals to get their hands on a gun that they could use against Americans,” he said.
In Congress, Democrats have pushed to ban the sale of firearms to those who appear on the FBI’s terrorist watch list — a compendium of names of those the law enforcement agency says have popped up with potential connections to terrorism.
Senate Democrats tried to push the proposal Tuesday, demanding a quick vote. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, blocked them.
“We all understand what’s going on here,” Mr. Cornyn said. “This isn’t about finding solutions to real problems. This is about trying to change the subject and to distract the American people from the fact that the president and this administration has absolutely no strategy to deal with the threat of ISIS, and the president tells us merely to stay the course.”
The White House, however, said there is GOP support for the proposal. A House version has been put forth by Rep. Peter King, New York Republican, and 2016 GOP presidential candidates Govs. John Kasich and Chris Christie made recent comments suggesting they’re open to the idea.
“Before Congress goes home for the holidays, they should pass legislation to close the ‘no fly, no buy’ loophole,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
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Democrats are indeed vowing to continue pressing the issue in the House, even though the effort failed multiple times in both the House and Senate since last week.
But Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America, said the push to keep people on the government’s terrorist watch list from getting guns would have disarmed people like the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy but not San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook.
“Obama’s feckless address was so maladroit and awkward that it defeated itself,” Mr. Hammond said.