The Pulse nightclub shooting—which left at least 50 people dead and 53 injured—drew calls for prayer and gun control from politicians still grappling with the news of the most deadly shooting in American history.
As the horrific details unfolded, politicians cautioned against jumping to conclusions, reiterated previous stances on gun rights.
As devastating mass shootings have come to feel more and more common, it’s a routine that feels darkly familiar: Republicans blame radical Islamic terrorists, Democrats blame lax gun laws, and everyone sends thoughts and prayers.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Bernie Sanders called for stricter regulations on gun sales.
“I believe that in this country, we should not be selling automatic weapons which are designed to kill people,” he said, when host Chuck Todd asked for his reaction to the news. “We have got to do everything that we can on top of that to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them, criminals, people who are mentally ill. So that struggle continues.”
Jeff Flake, a Republican senator from Arizona, also indicated openness to stricter background checks on would-be gun buyers.
“A lot of us have been talking for quite a while in terms of background checks and tightening background checks, particularly as it pertains to those with mental illness,” he told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And I think that that debate can and should go on as well as the debate on how to best protect us against those who were inspired or funded or directed by international terrorists.”
At a PBS town hall earlier this month, President Obama reiterated his call for barring people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns.
“I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I got people who we know have been on ISIL Web sites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun,” he said.
Clinton’s immediate response to the attack was more restrained than her fellow presidential contenders’.
“Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL,” she tweeted. “As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act. -H”
Later, in a statement, Clinton said it was "an act of terror" and "an act of hate."
She called for the US to "redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad" and stressed the importantance of "defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home."
She then reitereated her call for more gun control.
"[W]e need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals," she said. "This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets."
Donald Trump fired off a tweet characterizing the attack as “really bad,” and followed up with another missive complaining about a new Hillary Clinton ad criticizing him. Two hours later, he tweeted that “we” need to be “tough, smart, and vigilant.”
One of Trump’s top allies, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, was a bit more articulate. On Fox News Sunday, he cautioned against maligning Islam as a whole.
“There’s just, within the wonderful group of Islamic people, a certain group of radicals, and it’s been there for a long time, and it seems to be growing and we have to accept that fact, we have to be cautious about it,” he said.
Sessions chairs the national security committee for Trump’s campaign, which includes a ban on Muslims entering the country (Trump has said in recent interviews the ban was a “suggestion”).
“More of these attacks are coming,” he continued. “It’s a real part of the threat that we face, and if we can’t address it openly and directly, and say directly that there is an extremist element within Islam, that’s dangerous to the world and has to be confronted.”
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio echoed those concerns, and suggested that the attack at the gay nightclub had become the latest battleground in the War on Terror.
But, Rubio, who spoke with CNN’s Jake Tapper by phone, cautioned against making anything of the fact that the shooter’s parents are from Afghanistan.
“That in and of itself says nothing,” he said.
He added that he believes the shooting is an example of “the new face of the War on Terror.”
“It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of coordination,” he said. “You don’t need a phone call from Afghanistan or an email from Syria to tell you to go do this. We have seen the way radical Islamists have treated gays and lesbians in other countries.”
“It is quite frankly not surprising that they would target this community in this horrifying way,” he added.
Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters that he was told by staff on the Intelligence Committee that the shooter may have ISIS connections.
“I have checked with intelligence [committee] staff and they do believe that there is some connection to ISIS, but I might say that is not official,” he said, adding that anyone knows anything about the shooter, to contact authorities.
“This appears to be, unfortunately, since it’s the largest mass shooting, an act of terrorism, but the facts - we can’t say that totally yet,” he said.
Nelson then decried the violence saying to was time to “dig down deep and ask ourselves who we are as a people.”
“We’ve got to think of ourselves as the common denominator of Americans not a hyphenated American or off on some cause,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to explore deep inside at this point.”
The impact of the violence in Orlando reverberated around the country but in Los Angeles it hit particularly close to home. Before the kick-off of the Los Angeles Pride parade, Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed reporters about the arrest of a would-be attacker near the parade route with a car full of explosives.
“We will not shrink away, we will not be stuck in our homes, we will not go back into closets,” said the mayor. “We are out here to march, to celebrate, and to mourn. Today we know that we are targeted as Americans because this is a society where we love broadly and openly, because we have Jews and Christians and Muslims and atheists and Buddhists marching together. Because we are white, black, brown, Asian, Native American. the whole spectrum, and every hue and every culture is here. And all of our hearts today are with Orlando.”
“We are Pulse, we are Orlando, we are Americans, we are all LGBTQ community members today, we are all part of a country that will not be beaten down,” he said. “We will not go away and today we are proud of who we are.”