Clinton defends pushing gun control amid San Bernardino terror probe

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton defended herself Friday against Republican criticism that she spoke too soon by calling for gun control after the San Bernardino shootings
  • Her comments Thursday came before law enforcement announced that the shootings were being investigated as a terrorist attack

Fort Dodge, Iowa (CNN)Hillary Clinton forcefully defended herself Friday from Republican criticism about her push for comprehensive gun control legislation shortly after the deaths of 14 people in San Bernardino, given that investigators are now labeling the shooting a terrorist attack.

In New Hampshire Thursday, Clinton called directly for gun control, telling audiences throughout the state that the shooting proved the government needs "to take action now" on guns. At the time, the shootings' link to terrorism was tenuous.
But on Friday, the FBI and other government officials confirmed that the shooting rampage was being investigated as a terrorist attack.
    "I don't see any conflict at all between going after the terrorists with everything we have got... and doing more on gun safety measures," Clinton said in response to a CNN question during a press conference at the end of a swing through Iowa. "I know that we can save lives and we shouldn't be conflating the two."
    Asked if she had any regrets in the way she pushed for gun control yesterday, Clinton said, "No, not at all. We don't know how they got that arsenal inside their house, we have no idea. We don't know if it was stolen, if it was bought by someone else and handed off to them. We don't know."
    Republicans hit Clinton -- and other Democrats -- on Friday for pushing gun control.
    "Not only was @HillaryClinton wrong about San Bernardino, she wants to deny Americans their #2A right to self defense," the National Rifle Association, a group Clinton has directly gone after for much of her presidential campaign, tweeted on Friday.
    Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican candidate for president, said the push for gun control after the attack is "just typical of the political left in America."
    "I mean they didn't even know any of the facts about this and they immediately jumped on it as an opportunity to push their gun control agenda even though no gun laws would have prevented this from occurring," Rubio said in New Hampshire. "We need terrorist control."
    Clinton said during the presser that questioning whether one of her top gun issues -- banning people on the "No Fly List" from purchasing weapons -- would have prevented what happened in San Bernardino was "like the question: 'How do you prove a negative?'"
    "I don't know exactly what it would have or could have prevented," she said. "I do know we've got to start implementing sensible gun safety measures and this seems among the most sensible that I know of."
    Clinton's comments came at the end of her daylong swing through Iowa, where she headlined an event in Sioux City with the latest member of Obama's cabinet to endorse her, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Clinton then headlined a town hall at a Fort Dodge, Iowa community college, where she spoke how the shooting was now being considered "an act of terrorism."
    "It is incumbent upon all of us to understand that this is going to be a long struggle," Clinton said, ruling out putting American troops on the ground but pushing for more work combating ISIS online.
    Clinton did not directly answer a question about whether the United States has become too sensitive to civil liberties concerns given that law enforcement now say one of the attackers used the internet and social media to interface with possible terrorists.
    "I think we are always trying to get the balance right between liberty and privacy and security and safety and that has been a balancing act from the very beginning of our country," Clinton said, touting her support for the USA Freedom Act, a law that ended the bulk collection of phone metadata and reformed surveillance practices.
    "We just have to have a broad, very careful analysis of what we think will work to try to cripple them in cyberspace," Clinton said. "I will be promoting and looking for ideas about it."