by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, June 13 (Xinhua) -- After the mass shooting incident in Florida, terrorism and gun control will likely become major issues in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
In one of the worst terror attacks in U.S. history, 49 people were killed and 53 others were wounded Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The gunman, Omar Mateen, had allegedly pledged allegiance to the teror group Islamic State (IS) -- the brutal terror group that has overtaken vast swaths of Syria and Iraq and unleashed a deadly attack on Paris last year that killed scores of people.
President Barack Obama said Monday it appeared that Mateen was motivated by extremist propaganda online as no evidence was found about his direct link with radical groups.
The attack occurred in the lead up of the 2016 race for the White House, and experts said the terror strike will have a major impact on the elections, with gun control and terrorism -- and U.S. foreign policy by extension -- expected to take center stage in the months leading up to November, when Americans will cast their ballots for the new commander-in-chief.
Even so, two competing narratives are already emerging, with the left touting what they say is a need for more gun control and the right calling for more action against Islamic radicalism.
In a speech from her campaign trail on Monday, Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton talked about the need to tackle terrorism, but emphasized what she billed as a need for more gun control.
While noting that the shooter had pledged allegiance to IS, she added that his motives remain unknown.
"There's a lot we still don't know, including what other mix of motives drove him to kill," she said.
Later the same day, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump spoke from his campaign trail in the state of New Hampshire, saying he would "suspend immigration" from parts of the world where there is a proven link between that country and terrorism.
Expressing disdain for what he called the "current politically correct response," he said political correctness inhibits the United States from responding fast and clearly.
In response to those who believe that stricter firearms laws will keep Americans safer, the bombastic billionaire noted that while France has very strict gun control laws, scores were killed in the deadly terror in Paris last year.
Trump added that more gun control would be tantamount to disarming law-abiding Americans and leaving them more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Radical Islam is "anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-American," he said, adding that he refuses to live in a country where Christians, gays, Jews and others are targeted by radical Islam.
Reiterating his calls for an overhaul of the immigration system, he said the current "dysfunctional" immigration system does not "permit us to protect our citizens properly."
Trump's message is likely to boost his ratings with his supporters and be slammed by Clinton supporters, but the question remains whether the brash billionaire will get a boost in his ratings overall.
Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, said that last year's Paris attacks boosted Trump by highlighting his warnings about the threat of Islamic terrorism.
"The current attack reinforces his message that the world is a dangerous place and America needs a strong leader who can restore order amidst the chaos," he said.
Experts said the attack shifts the focus from Trump's controversial remarks against Latinos and Muslims, as well as his perceived bad business dealings.
"It puts the attention back on terrorism, which is advantageous for him," West said.
"Trump will say Democrats are weak on terrorism while Clinton will point to the dangers of assault weapons. Congress will continue to do nothing and America will have more tragic shootings," he added.
But, Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said it is not inevitable for Trump to get a boost from the Florida attack.
"I don't think that is inevitable. It helps in that it shifted news focus away from the negative stories from last week," he said.
"But this raises the question that Hillary Clinton wants to be front and center of -- do you really trust Donald Trump to be in power during moments of crises? Many Americans will have doubts," he added.