Presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both sought political advantage on Monday in the aftermath of a terrorist attack by a self-styledjihadi at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Republican Mr. Trump accused Democrat Ms. Clinton of wanting to disarm Americans and leaving them defenceless while allowing hordes of Islamic radicals into the United States.

“She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us,” Mr. Trump said in Manchester, N.H., at a campaign stop.

The two bitter rivals had been trading jibes since dawn, each accusing the other of enhancing the risk of more mass murder.

Ms. Clinton was less direct. “Weapons of war have no place on our streets,” she said.

The political mudslinging in the immediate aftermath of the Orlando slaughter that killed 49 people stood in sharp contrast to the reaction of U.S. President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent, in 2012. They both suspended campaigning out of respect for the victims after a gunman killed a dozen people in a murderous rampage in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo.

Ms. Clinton didn’t actually refer to Mr. Trump by name in her comments on Monday, but there was no mistaking the attack on his vow to ban Muslims from entering the United States and subject U.S. citizens who are Muslim to special surveillance.

“Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans as well as millions of Muslim businesspeople and tourists from entering our country hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror,” Ms. Clinton said in Cleveland, where Republicans will gather next month – in the key swing state of Ohio – for the party’s convention.

“So does saying that we have to start special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion,” she said, adding: “That’s wrong. And it’s also dangerous. It plays right into the terrorists’ hands.”

Mr. Trump was less subtle. He re-invoked the smear campaign that Mr. Obama might secretly be a Muslim. He accused the President of being afraid or unwilling to utter the phase “radical Islam” and suggested Ms. Clinton was also afraid because Mr. Obama is “protecting her from going to jail” over her use of a private e-mail server while she was Secretary of State.

“Clinton wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country – they enslave women, and murder gays,” Mr. Trump said, adding: “I don’t want them in our country.”

Mr. Trump was tweeting before the bodies in Orlando had been identified, saying that the massacre had proved him right about the spectre of Islamic terrorism aided by lax policies and “political correctness” on Mr. Obama’s watch.

“Having learned nothing from these attacks, she [Ms. Clinton] now plans to massively increase admissions without a screening plan including a 500-per-cent increase in Syrian refugees coming into our country. Tell me, tell me – how stupid is that?” asked Mr. Trump.

Ms. Clinton, who has denounced her Republican opponent as “dangerously incoherent” and “temperamentally unfit” to be president, couched her post-massacre political message largely in terms of gun control, resurrecting the often-tried and always previously defeated effort to ban so-called assault weapons.

“I know some will say that assault weapons and background checks are totally separate issues having nothing to do with terrorism. Well, in Orlando and San Bernardino terrorists used assault weapons, the AR-15. And they used it to kill Americans. That was the same assault weapon used to kill those little children in Sandy Hook,” she said, referring to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Mr. Trump, echoing the view of the powerful National Rifle Association, lamented that there weren’t more armed Americans in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando who could have killed the shooter.

“If you had guns in that room … if you had a number of people having them strapped to their ankles or strapped to their waist, where bullets could have flown in the other direction right at him, you wouldn’t have had the same kind of a tragedy.”

Mr. Trump said tougher gun-control laws wouldn’t reduce the threat. Rather, he accused Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton of betraying Christians, women and the gay community by failing to stem the flow of Muslims into the United States.

“Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists to our country … who suppress women, gays and anyone who doesn’t share their views or values.”

He also vowed to root out radical Muslim clerics, irrespective of whether they were U.S. citizens.

“I refuse to allow America to become a place where gay people, Christian people, Jewish people are targets of persecution and intimation by radical Islamic preachers of hate and violence,” he said.

Ms. Clinton said American Muslims, most of them peace-loving, offer the best hope of detecting and turning in those among them turning to violence. “We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them,” she said.

WASHINGTON — The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jun. 13, 2016 3:08PM EDT
Last updated Monday, Jun. 13, 2016 9:14PM EDT