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Obama backs gun control as a counter-terrorism strategy.

Getty Images News

In his prime-time Sunday night address from the Oval Office, President Obama covered a range of issues pertaining to America’s ongoing struggle with ISIS. But among the usual military- and intelligence-related recommendations for facing down terrorists, Obama also included a significant focus on domestic gun control.

“We ... need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons, like the ones that were used in San Bernardino,” Obama said. Because U.S. intelligence cannot single out every would-be mass shooter,  he added,“What we can do, and must do, is make it harder for them to kill.” 

The president’s stance is in keeping with statements made as far back as 2008, when he voiced support for a renewed assault weapons ban. The difference is that his position back then was premised mainly on concerns about general criminal activity, including drug crime, while tonight’s rationale intertwined concerns about terrorism with concerns about mass shootings motivated by any “hateful ideology,” almost blending the two issues. 

As the 2016 election season advances, whether or not to view gun control as a counter-terrorism issue will likely constitute an interesting point of tension between Republicans and Democrats, with the latter now able to question the former on why they’re not doing everything possible to prevent terrorism: a curious reversal of rhetorical fortunes.