AP fact-checks Clinton, Trump on Orlando shooting

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. (Image: CNN)

Soon after the horrific mass shooting in Orlando, the candidates for president weighed in, offering their condolences to the LGBT community and solutions to end the violence against it.

Republican candidate Donald Trump seems to think the fault lies with failed American foreign policy and a faulty national security plan under the Obama administration that focused on “nation building” and allowed the shooter’s parents to enter the U.S. in the first place.

“The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why she believes immigration from these dangerous countries should be increased without any effective system to really screen,” Trump said. “We’re not screening people.”

For Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and her ilk, the lives of the 49 patrons of a gay club could have been spared if dangerous “assault weapons” were banned. Of course, the weapons used were technically not assault weapons, the term itself a misnomer, but the point is that if those guns – a semi-automatic rifle and semi-auto handgun – were outlawed, the shooter wouldn’t have been able to injure and kill as many people. Some 53 people were also wounded in the shooting.

Further, to persecute an entire class of people based on the actions of a few is wrong, Clinton said.

“Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric” and a ban on Muslims entering the country, as Trump has advocated, are counterproductive. “It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques have tripled after Paris and San Bernardino,” Clinton said, as reported by the Associated Press.

The AP fact-checked the candidates’ statements and found the truth is a little more complicated.

On Trump’s assertion about Syrian refugees, all of them are subject to background checks, the news organization reported. They’re also checked against a database of known terrorists and the process of entering the U.S. can take upwards of 24 months and in many cases even longer.

The AP:

Refugees are subject to in-person interviews overseas and are required to provide biographical data about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email addresses and other information, along with biometric information including fingerprints.

The vetting process is led by the Homeland Security Department, with involvement from the State Department and U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

For all that caution, though, U.S. officials have acknowledged there is a risk the Islamic State group could try to place operatives among refugees. Last year, FBI Director James Comey said data about people coming from Syria may be limited, adding, “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our database.” 

Clinton’s claim that attacks on Muslim mosques was also a bit off, relying on a California State University-San Bernardino study which relied on just a month of data.

The study’s author, UC San Bernardino Professor Brian Levin, acknowledged limitations to his findings, including comparing disparate data sets. And because he measured only one month, he couldn’t say whether the increase he observed in December persisted until now, as Clinton implied. Levin said reports of hate crimes generally peak in the month after a terror attack and then fall back to something near the average.

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