The 2016 field of presidential candidates highlighted their various positions on gun control today while offering prayers and support in the wake of a shooting in Virginia that took the lives of two television journalists.
Other prominent shootings have prompted strong reactions from both sides -- calls for stronger gun control from the left and calls to respect the Second Amendment from the right.
Vester Flanagan, described by authorities as a disgruntled former employee of WDBJ, shot and killed reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward while they were on the air Wednesday morning.
When Republican frontrunner Donald Trump was asked this morning on CNN whether he would do something different with gun policy, he said he would not.
“I don’t think I would because this is really a sick person. This isn’t a gun problem. This is a mental problem,” he said. “That’s what they should be focusing on instead of guns -- they should be talking about mental health because there’s so many things that can be done.”
He went on to call himself a “Second Amendment person,” adding that the shooting in Virginia was “horrible” and “a very sad commentary on life.”
But the real estate mogul has changed his tune since writing his book in 2000. “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun,” he wrote in “The America We Deserve.”
On the Democratic side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton vowed to continue her support for gun control after the tragic shooting.
Heartbroken and angry. We must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer. Praying for the victims' families in Virginia. -H— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 26, 2015
“But I will also reiterate we have got to do something about gun violence, and I will take it on,” she told reporters in Ankeny, Iowa, on Wednesday. “If we had universal background checks, if we could just put some time out between the person who’s upset because he got fired or domestic abuse or whatever other motivation may be working on someone who does this, maybe we could prevent this kind carnage."
While Joe Biden considers whether to jump into the 2016 race, Clinton's strongest competition right now, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, referred reporters to his previous statements on gun control, which have been criticized by the left for being too moderate.
I am saddened by the senseless deaths of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Jane and I have their families and friends in our thoughts.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 26, 2015
“We can't have people demagoguing against folks just because they go out and hunt and they own guns,” he said on ABC News' "This Week" in late June. “On the other hand, rural America has got to understand that guns in Vermont are not the same thing as guns in Chicago.”
Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has not gotten traction in the polls and is struggling to regain the spotlight, pointed to President Obama as a source of the problem.
“Well, first off, the deaths are an awful tragedy but let's focus on what the real problem is,” he said on "Fox and Friends" this morning. “We're not enforcing law in this country. ... This president and this administration hasn’t enforced them.”
Other Republican candidates, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, expressed their support on Twitter on Wednesday and today.
Saddened by the deadly shooting in Virginia this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 26, 2015
“What law in the world could have prevented him from killing them, whether it was with a gun or a knife or a bomb,” Rubio said in New Hampshire on Wednesday, according to the Boston Globe. “What has happened to us as a society that we now devalue life to such a level? What has happened in our society that people have become so violent? That’s the fundamental question we need to confront.”
Neurosurgeon and GOP candidate Ben Carson expressed a similar sentiment on CNN last night. "People are the problem, not so much guns," he said. "People use knives, people use bats, people us hammers to bludgeon people to death. I don’t hear anybody talking about taking those things away."
My prayers go out to the @WDBJ7 family and their tragic loss this morning.— Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) August 26, 2015
Other candidates continued to offer their support on social media.
Shocked by the horrific murders in Roanoke. Columba and I are praying for Alison, Adam and all those affected.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 26, 2015
My thoughts & prayers go out to Roanoke & the families and friends of the victims of this senseless violent act. -John— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) August 26, 2015
All of our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, and loved ones of @WDBJ7’s Alison and Adam.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 26, 2015
My thoughts and prayers go out to the three victims of this senseless tragedy, as well as to their families and friends. #WDBJ— Jim Webb (@JimWebbUSA) August 26, 2015
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and #WDBJ7. Absolutely heartbreaking.— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) August 26, 2015