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Clinton: Arming Civilians 'to Do What?' Not the 'Appropriate Response to Terrorism'

Hillary Clinton argued at Saturday night’s New Hampshire Democratic debate that armed civilians won’t do any good in the fight against terrorism.

“Secretary Clinton, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, you all emphasized gun control. But our latest poll shows that more Americans believe arming people, not stricter gun laws, is the best defense against terrorism. Are they wrong?” ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked.

An ABC poll last week showed support for an assault weapons ban dropping to a record low — 45 percent — as just 22 percent said they feel confident that the government can stop lone-wolf attacks. By a 47-42 percent margin, American polled think that encouraging gun ownership is a better defense to terrorism than strict gun control.

“Well, I think you have to look at both the terrorism challenge that we face abroad and certainly at home and the role that guns play in delivering the violence that stalks us. Clearly, we have to have a very specific set of actions to take. You know, when Senator Sanders talks about a coalition, I agree with him about that. We’ve got to build a coalition abroad. We also have to build a coalition at home. Abroad, we need a coalition that is going to take on ISIS. I know how hard that is. I know it isn’t something you just hope people will do and I’ve worked on that,” Clinton answered before Raddatz interjected, “Secretary Clinton, can we stick to gun control?”

Clinton shot back that she was “getting to that.”

“Because I think if you only think about the coalition abroad you’re missing the main point, which is we need a coalition here at home. Guns, in and of themselves, in my opinion, will not make Americans safer. We lose 33,000 people a year already to gun violence, arming more people to do what, I think, is not the appropriate response to terrorism.”

Clinton said the answer is “creating much deeper, closer relations and, yes, coalitions within our own country.”

“The first line of defense against radicalization is in Muslim-American community. People who we should be welcoming and working with,” she said. “…So guns have to be looked at as its own problem, but we also have to figure out how we’re going to deal with the radicalization here in the United States.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has explained his home state’s hunting culture in fending off attacks from Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on his gun-rights voting record, was asked if he would “discourage” gun purchases that have swelled since the Paris terrorist attacks.

“It’s a country in which people choose to buy guns. I think half of the — more than half of the people in my own state of Vermont, my guess here in New Hampshire, are gun owners. That’s the right of people,” Sanders replied.

“I think we have got to bring together the vast majority of the people who do in fact believe in sensible gun safety regulations… Who denies that it is crazy to allow people to own guns who are criminals or are mentally unstable? We’ve got to eliminate the gun show loophole. In my view, we have got to see that weapons designed by the military to kill people are not in the hands of civilians. I think there is a consensus.”

In last week’s CBS News/YouGov poll, Sanders was ahead of Clinton by 14 points in New Hampshire.