GREENLAND, N.H. – Back for a very brief campaign swing through New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on Friday declared that the recent California shootings signify “the most dangerous terrorist threat we’ve ever faced" while defending his vote against preventing individuals on the terror watch list from buying guns.
The Florida senator told a crowd gathered at New Hampshire’s Seacoast Republican Women Holiday luncheon that the massacre in San Bernardino represents the most dangerous terrorist threat is because "the husband was a U.S. citizen, born here in the United States, lived here his entire life, had never ever, ever done anything radical or strange that caused anyone to be suspicious of him - never would have shown up in any database, never would have shown up in any background screening.”
Rubio also blasted Democrats for their rapid response, calling for greater gun control measures in the wake of the violence even with reports that the woman praised ISIS.
“I don't want to hear any more about the president talking about gun control. Forty-eight hours after this is over there's still out there talking about gun control measures as if somehow terrorists care about what our gun laws are," he said.
“It’s just typical of the political left in America,” Rubio continued. “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.”
“We need bomb control because these people were building bombs. We need terrorist control,” Rubio added.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party was quick to respond, pointing to Rubio’s recent vote against legislation aimed at blocking people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms.
"For all of Marco Rubio’s saber-rattling rhetoric on terror, he voted just yesterday against a bill that would have made it harder for suspected terrorists to purchase guns,” Lizzy Price, the New Hampshire Democratic Party Communications Director, said in a statement. “Terror suspects’ gun purchases are currently approved 91% of the time, and this straightforward bill could have made our country safer from both terrorists and shooting sprees while respecting the Second Amendment. Rubio voted against keeping Americans safe on our country’s soil.”
Rubio defended that vote while speaking with reporters in New Hampshire on Friday, saying that there is no due process for individuals on the list and that sometimes people can be on the list because of a mistake or because they have a name similar to a terror suspect.
“You’re talking about denying people a second amendment, a constitutional right because the federal government made a mistake and there's no due process, there's no due process by which you can go and get your name removed. I know, we've tried to help people in our office, it's very difficult,” Rubio said.
“To act like these are reliable lists when you have 700,000 Americans, over 700,000 Americans with their name on one list or another, I just don't think that's the right approach," he added.
Rubio differentiated between the shooting attack in San Bernardino and the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic last week when asked whether he considers the Planned Parenthood shooting terrorism.
"They obviously terrorized and killed people, but the pathology of that attack is probably more mental illness in a deranged individual. These individuals in California were motived by an ideological belief in radical Islam,” Rubio said. “Terrible tragedies both ways but different motivations behind them represent different challenges to our country.”
While speaking to the crowd gathered for the Republican luncheon, Rubio laid out his national security vision and boasted that he was able to predict foreign policy crises over the last several years.
“I don't want to sound as if this is something that other people haven't been able to do in the past, but I'm very proud of this,” Rubio stated. “There is not a major issue before America today in foreign policy that I did not say that was going to happen well before it did. I warned about what happened in Libya in 2011, I warned about what happened in Iraq as early as 2012, I warned that Vladimir Putin was going to conduct airstrikes two weeks before he even started.”
In a recent interview in The Atlantic, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of Rubio’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, and a candidate gaining ground in New Hampshire, said “there's not a lot of depth there,” referring to Rubio. Christie backed up those assertions, telling NBC News in Iowa on Friday that Rubio "has not had to make executive decisions. And it’s much different than just being one of a hundred and one vote in a subcommittee."
Rubio dismissed Christie's comments as competitive campaign rhetoric. "He's running for president and I'm one of the other candidates. He's not going to say nice things about me,” Rubio said.
Rubio did take the opportunity to again jab at fellow Republican senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz for co-sponsoring the USA Freedom Act, a bill passed in June that reigned in some government surveillance programs.
"There are policy differences between me and Ted Cruz,” Rubio told reporters. “He supported weakening the intelligence programs in this country, I do not. It's a legitimate issue to have a debate over. He supported budgets that cut defense spending even further than Barack Obama proposes that we cut it, that's a legitimate policy difference and that's legitimate for us to discuss.”
Rubio also defended his view that he opposes abortion even in instances of rape and incest.
“I am pro-life,” Rubio affirmed, adding, “I have voted for and sponsored bills that have exceptions, and I will support abortion legislation that limits the number of abortions… but my personal view is what it is.”
Fellow Republican senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham warned Republicans at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference Thursday that choosing a nominee who doesn’t favor these exceptions “will not win” the election against Democrats next November.