The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

After Orlando, the right points to radical Islam, while the left points to guns, hate

What happened in Orlando early Sunday morning, which already ranks as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, quickly raised big political questions about terrorism, guns and hate crimes.

And answers to those questions are still unfolding at this juncture, with details about how the tragedy came about slowly trickling out.

"This was an act of terror and hate," President Obama said as he addressed the nation Sunday afternoon.

After the shooting in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub on June 12 that killed at least 49 people, politicians were quick to respond. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

The interweaving facts of the shooting -- it was at an LGBT night club on the opening weekend of Pride Month, and law enforcement officials said the suspected gunman had “declared his allegiance” to the Islamic State -- makes the tragedy a particularly combustible combination of some of the most passion-infused issues in American politics, with people on both sides quickly zeroing in on one particular aspect of it to make their political point.

Those on the right were quick to blame radical Islamist terrorism. Meanwhile, those on the left were more apt to a frame this as a hate crime against gay people or to talk about Orlando in the context of mass shootings more broadly, especially given this was the deadliest ever.

From a purely political perspective, that split is entirely predictable. But this is the rare mass shooting that quickly led to both sides pushing their political priorities. When the perpetrator of such shootings has been a Muslim, Republicans have pounced. When the shootings appear to be a hate crime, Democrats have been quicker to invoke politics. While details are still scarce, Orlando quickly gave both sides reason to shout.

The political conversation will no doubt take a firmer shape as we learn more about what happened in Orlando. But it’s telling that as our nation reels from the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, it quickly became about politics for both sides — with much different focuses.

Here’s a roundup of reactions we’ve noticed so far.

On the right:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan's (R-Wis.) statement:

It is horrifying to see so many innocent lives cut short by such cowardice. Tonight, and in the long days ahead, we will grieve with the families. We will thank the heroes. We will hope for a swift recovery for the injured. As we heal, we need to be clear-eyed about who did this. We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders. It is a threat to our people at home and abroad. Our security depends on our refusal to back down in the face of terror. We never will.

And on the left:

The scene in Orlando after a gunman opened fire at a nightclub

An injured person is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub after a shooting rampage, Sunday morning June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub early Sunday, killing at least 50 people before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history. (AP Photo/Steven Fernandez)