Orlando shooting revives gun debate: Where do the candidates stand?

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drew contradictory lessons from the shooting in Orlando, outlining divergent paths forward on gun control.

Tony Dejak/AP and Chris O'Meara/AP
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (l.) and Donald Trump (r.), show in this composite image from two separate campaign events this week, have vastly different views on gun control.

In the wake of the mass shooting at the gay club in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend, presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reaffirmed previously stated views on gun control. The public got a glimpse of how each politician would seek to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring during their presidency.

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, restated her support for an assault weapons ban that would outlaw the weapon authorities say the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, legally purchased and used to kill 49 people.

"We have to make it harder for people who should not have those weapons of war," former Secretary of State Clinton said in Cleveland Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Clinton supports a ban similar to the 10-year ban on weapons with high capacity magazines that expired in 2004 and was not renewed.

Mr. Trump opposes any new restrictions on weapons or ammunitions. Trump erroneously characterized Clinton's proposal as an attempt to abolish the Second Amendment and asserted that her plans would include "disarming law-abiding" citizens, "leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns."

In his comments, Trump focused on the fact that Mr. Mateen was Muslim. He again called to ban foreign Muslims from entering the United States and criticized President Obama's handling of the threat posed by Islamic terrorism.

Clinton supports an expansion of laws requiring background checks for gun purchases to include gun shows, which are currently exempt from the checks performed at retail stores. A bill that would have closed the so-called "gun-show loophole" failed to pass the Senate in 2013.

Trump is opposed to new restrictions, though he has said the background check system could be improved upon.

Enhanced background checks likely would not have made a difference in Orlando, since Mateen held a security guard and statewide firearms license in Florida and was able to legally obtain the guns used in the shooting. An assault weapon ban, however, might have made it more difficult for the shooter to kill as many people as he did, some observers say.

Richard Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City and a national expert on gun control legislation, told The Christian Science Monitor in an interview Monday that assault weapons are inextricably tied to mass shootings.

"Assault weapons are military weapons designed for close-quarters combat. That's why you see them over and over and over again in these mass shootings. They are being used precisely the way they were designed: to slaughter people," said Mr. Aborn.

Experts disagree on the efficacy of a decade-long assault weapons ban that lifted in 2004.

Citizens Crime Commission data states that the decade of the ban saw a decrease in the number of people killed or injured in mass shootings to 119, compared to 241 in the decade before the ban. That number tripled during the decade after the ban expired, hitting 329 in September 2012.

Yet Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles school of law and author of "Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America," told the Monitor the ban was easy to get around by slightly altering the existing rifles.

Mr. Winkler said data showed a drop in the number of assault weapons found at crime scenes, but there was no reduction in gun violence or fatalities overall. Assault weapons were used only in a small minority of gun crimes, said Professor Winkler.

Beyond his insistence that gun control does nothing to curb violence, Trump has also argued that having more guns in circulation would make America safer, particularly if campuses had armed officers and trained teachers with guns on campus.

Clinton soundly disagrees. She said in a campaign event in Philadelphia in April, "we just have too many guns."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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