San Bernardino shooting sparks fresh debate over gun laws

During his weekly White House address on Saturday, President Barack Obama said Wednesday’s shooting at a San Bernardino social services facility was an “act of terrorism” and called on Congress to close a loophole that allows people on the No-Fly list to purchase guns.

“If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun,” he said.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, killed 14 and injured 21, before being killed in a shootout with police.

Obama also acknowledged that it was “entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror.”

On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigations said Malik pledged support for ISIS using an alias on Facebook on the day of the attacks.

“We’re … learning more about the killers. And we’re working to get a full picture of their motives — why they committed these revolting acts,” the president said Friday. “It’s important to let the investigators do their job. We need to know all the facts.”

As the FBI continued its investigation into the shooting, the New York Times ran a front-page editorial Saturday calling for gun control in light of a string of mass shootings, including the San Bernardino attack this week.

The editorial is the first published on the front page of the Times since 1920.

The editorial board criticized Congress for what it called a lack of leadership, and said elected leaders “place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.”

News reports this week indicated Obama may try to use executive action to reign in the sale of military-style assault weapons, like those used in the San Bernardino shooting.

“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 Saturday’s address. “It’s another tragic reminder that here in America it’s way too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun.”

In an October interview with PBS NewsHour, Todd Clear, of the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, said over the years there have been attempts at new federal legislation to bolster screenings of people seeking to buy guns, but movement on the issue remains challenging.

“It’s hard to get this movement on this politically because the people who are opposed to gun regulation, to any gun regulation, are so strong and organized, that the political movement on questions like this are difficult,” he said.

Months after a gunman stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013, killing 20 children and six adults, Connecticut enacted some of the strictest gun control measures in the country.


In this report from 2014 (above), PBS NewsHour Weekend looks at how Connecticut adopted some of the most restrictive gun policies in the country, which includes a law enacted in 2013 to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill.

The new law bolstered legislation already in place, requiring universal background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases, and placing limits on the ability of mentally ill people to purchase guns. More than 100 assault weapons were also banned along with ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.

Guns right’s advocates criticized the Connecticut law then as whittling down Second Amendment rights and unduly penalizing gun owners at large.

“Punishing me, and those like me, solely because we lawfully and responsibly possess the same type of property that he– that a criminal had, makes about as much logical sense as punishing you for owning the same type of car that a drunk driver had,” Dom Basile, a Connecticut firearm instructor, told the NewsHour last year.

According data from shootingtracker.com, which is maintained by a Reddit group, the San Bernardino attack is one of more than 350 shootings this year.

You can see a 2015 map of all of the mass shootings in the U.S. — defined by shootingtracker.com as incidents in which at least four people are killed or wounded, including the gunman — here