U.S. Republican presidential candidates said on Thursday a recent mass shooting in California was a sign that Americans are at risk from homegrown radicals and vowed, if elected, to destroy Islamic State militants.
Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Washington, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said President Barack Obama failed to take steps to protect the United States.
Most of those seeking the Republican nomination in the November 2016 presidential election planned to address the conference with pro-Israel speeches.
Cruz, who is among the leaders in polls of Republican voters, said the California attack proves the country needs “a war-time president.”
Contrary to Democrats, who have called for tougher gun laws to prevent violent attacks, Cruz announced plans to hold a “second amendment” event in Iowa on Friday, in reference to the constitutional right to bear arms.
Investigators have not determined the motive of suspects who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Wednesday.
Candidate Carly Fiorina, in an interview on Fox News, said “everything points to a terrorist attack, a homegrown terrorist attack” in San Bernardino.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump said the California attack was likely related to what he called “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“When I heard about it, I figured maybe not, but it turns out probably was related,” Trump said.
Long-shot candidate George Pataki, a former New York governor, cited other domestic killing sprees as evidence of a warped form of Islam and said free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution do not extend to speeches urging American Muslims to take up arms against other citizens.
“We do not have to tolerate that kind of speech in America,” he said. “It is a crime and we must stop it.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio was careful not to declare the California attacks the result of homegrown jihadists while it was still being investigated. Still, he said the West is waging war against radical “apocalyptic Islam.”
“We must not separate the threat to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from the threat to Paris or London or New York or Miami,” Rubio said.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a foreign policy hawk who wants to send more American troops to Iraq, said he would pursue an aggressive policy against Islamic State and “kill every one of these bastards that we can find.”
Candidates also pledged to protect Israel and oppose the nuclear deal reached with Iran earlier this year.
“I will restore the trust that binds America’s alliance with Israel and send the world the unmistakable message that we stand as one in our common effort to defeat the enemies of civilization,” Jeb Bush said in prepared remarks.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Bill Trott)