Hillary Rodham Clinton seized on the recent spasm of gun violence on Monday, detailing a gun control plan that sets herself apart from Republicans and differentiates her from Senator Bernie Sanders, her insurgent rival for the Democratic nomination.
At a town hall gathering in New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton called for an expansion of background checks for those who seek to buy firearms. Proposing a mix of legislative and executive action, the former secretary of state is seeking regulations that would tighten loopholes for online sales and gun-show sales, block sales to domestic abusers and the mentally ill, and hold gun dealers accountable for where they land.
“How much longer can we just shrug?” Mrs. Clinton asked.
Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy on MSNBC Monday accused Congress of “quietly endorsing… mass murders” by refusing to act on gun control after mass shootings…
“I’ve said for a long time that I think Congress is effectively quietly endorsing these mass murders, because people who are having their minds unhinged note that there is no one here in the elected legislative branch of Congress who is getting together to do something about it in a practical way,” he said.
“So I think without Congress acting here, we are going to see more and more of these mass slaughters, and that’s an abomination,” he concluded.
Even Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is known for a moderate record on gun control in hunting-friendly Vermont, delivered fiery remarks in Boston on Saturday calling for extended federal background checks and ending “the sale and distribution of semi-automatic weapons whose only goal is to kill people.”
“If we do all of these things we can lessen the likelihood of these horrendous disasters,” Sanders said Saturday.
For critics of gun control, Democrats’ call for greater restrictions in the wake of the Newtown and Oregon shootings politicize the tragedies. They argue guns help protect Americans faced with violence, an argument that polls show many Americans agree with. Democratic candidates are unfazed by this opposition.
It’s a departure from the stance Democrats have taken for years, when they tended to tread carefully on the issue of gun control, afraid of arousing the ire of rural white voters and losing swing states like Ohio or Colorado. Presidential candidates from Al Gore to Hillary Clinton in 2008 sounded moderate tones on gun control, and were often eager to flaunt their pro-Second Amendment bona fides.
During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Monday, Hillary Clinton sought to highlight the differences between her response to last week’s mass shooting in Oregon and those of her Republican rivals by calling out the seemingly apathetic comments made by both Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.
“On the Republican side, Mr. Trump was asked about it,” she said of the shooting, “and said something like, ‘Things like that happen in the world.” (His actual statement was “these things happen.”) “And Governor Bush said, ‘stuff happens,’” Clinton added, referring to those controversial comments.
“No,” she said in response. “That’s an admission of defeat and surrender to a problem that is killing 33,000 Americans [per year].”
Clinton appeared viscerally frustrated as she spoke after Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, in which authorities say a student killed nine people before turning one of several guns he had with him on himself. “What is wrong with us, that we cannot stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby, and the gun manufacturers they represent?” Clinton said Friday at Broward College in Davie, Florida. “We don’t just need to pray for these people. We need to act.”
In staking out a hardline position on guns, Clinton is capitalizing on an issue where she stands to the left of Sanders. He has a mixed record on gun control—he voted against the Brady Bill in 1993 and for the liability protection law, but also in favor of restrictions on the size of gun magazines—that he attributes to the gun culture of his rural state. He responded to the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Oregon with promises to implement “sensible gun-control legislation” and to improve mental health services, but has not yet offered specific proposals.
Finally, Clinton called for a repeal of the legal immunity that gun manufacturers and dealers currently enjoy under a 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. This could be the most politically provocative of the four proposals. Not only is the immunity a prized possession of the NRA, but it is something that Sanders voted for while a member of the House of Representatives. Clinton, who was a senator representing New York at the time, voted against it.
Sanders has defended his vote by arguing that the alternative would be akin to punishing a hammer-maker if someone used a hammer as a weapon. But gun control advocates argue that the law opens the door to negligent manufacturers who don’t fear being penalized when their firearms flood a community or market.
Clinton’s gun control push doesn’t appear to be an attempt to out-progressive Sanders so much as a thorough rethinking of how to patch up a hole-laden system of gun laws.
The political purpose behind the proposals to combat gun violence that Hillary Clinton introduced Monday may be to outflank her top rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders. On this issue, he’s been a shrinking violet. But among them is a bid for executive action so compelling that Barack Obama should act on it now, and not risk waiting for the next president…
Executive action in defiance of Congress is hardly an appealing strategy for public policy. But it appears increasingly impossible, in the face of congressional dysfunction, to address through legislation a scourge that contributes to killing more than 30,000 people a year. An attempt in 2013 to tighten the same loophole via legislation failed to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.
Rather than wait for the next Democratic president, Obama should embrace Clinton’s proposal. He’d have to expect an immediate lawsuit (only gun manufacturers are immune). But this would be a chance to test both the law and the extent of political support for clarifying it. Clinton has responded to an unreasonable circumstance with a reasoned proposal. Obama should take it up without delay.
“We need universal background checks, we know that they will work,” Hillary Clinton declared after a mass shooting by a perpetrator who passed a background check.
The Oregon shooter bought his guns legally. So did the Roanoake, Virginia shooter. The Tucson shooter passed a background check. The Aurora, Colorado shooter bought all of his guns legally.
Hillary blamed the Charleston shooter’s ability to buy a gun on a “loophole in the Brady Bill.” It wasn’t a loophole in the law; it was that local and FBI officials simply didn’t do their job correctly…
There is no law that can overcome incompetence on the part of those with the duty to enforce it.
In response to a question about the slaying of nine people at Umpqua Community College last week, Clinton was quick to bring up her desire to require all future gun owners to complete background checks before they are allowed to purchase a gun. She also name-dropped the Charleston tragedy when speaking about strengthening background check requirements for gun purchases.
If it’s wrong for Republicans to use the deaths of Americans to scrutinize her actions as secretary of State, why is it then okay for Clinton to use tragedies as a narrative device to push for tougher gun control?…
Clinton also decried gun shows as being equivalent to people basically selling guns out of the back of their cars. Her strange description suggests she has never been to a gun show herself, making her recommendations for regulating them seem out-of-touch at best. Clinton can huff and puff about how it’s wrong to use a tragedy to further a political point, but when she does it herself in the same interview, her criticisms just don’t have cachet.
Closing the “gun show loophole” would have the same impact on maniacal mass killings as shutting down food truck routes has on cupcake consumption. In fact, a study published just this year, which asked dangerous criminals where they got their guns, demonstrated that few (about 1.5% of gun offenders in Cook County, where guns are illegal) took the time to pack up the kiddies and haul on down to a convention center, so as to properly outfit their street gang. As for the background checks, the only people not required to perform them are people who aren’t “regularly engaged” in dealing firearms. The law already defines exactly who fits that description, and makes it very difficult to consider yourself a “private retailer” of firearms and also sell firearms in high volume. Which, of course, means that people who sell guns at gun shows have a hard time avoiding any “loophole” in Federal law that exists outside the minds of gun control advocates.
And since it’s illegal to ship a gun over state lines, Internet sales that fly under Federal radar are already problematic from a Federal point of view.
Scarier, of course, is that Clinton is planning on continuing the trend of the Executive Order, which allows the President to bypass Congress and make law all on his or her own. That’s, at least, some nice continuity between the Obama and Clinton terms, I suppose: they’re both willing to trample the traditional Separation of Powers in order to achieve their lofty, if ineffective, goals. I suppose it makes them feel good, though, and that’s what liberalism is all about.
Clinton is proposing three other measures:
1. Prohibiting domestic abusers and stalkers from buying and possessing guns. This sounds reasonable, but the change from existing law would allow people to have their guns taken from them without a court hearing. If people are committing crimes, they should be prosecuted for felonies or misdemeanors, but Clinton’s solution is to take away their guns even when they aren’t being prosecuted.
2. Closing the “Charleston Loophole,” where the federal background check worker didn’t contact the right law enforcement agencies. But the truth is more complicated. First, even a perfectly functioning background check system very likely wouldn’t have stopped the suspect, Dylann Roof, from getting a gun. Second, the current background check system is a much worse mess than Clinton recognizes…
3. Repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prevents the manufacturers and dealers of firearms from being held liable for crimes committed with their weapons. It might be hard to remember, but gun makers were being sued because they “specifically geared” their weapons to make them attractive to gang members. Among the offending characteristics listed are low price, easy concealability, corrosion resistance and high firepower. Suing an industry for making affordable products shows how far the liability-litigation madness has gone.
I won’t at all be surprised if something like a “universal background check” law does pass in the near future, though probably in the beginning without the federal gun registry that the National Institute of Justice admits is necessary for such laws to actually be thorough and effective. We have enough gun owners in America and enough people who believe in a basic right to gun ownership, combined with a clear record of gun registration leading to gun confiscation, that in the short term that won’t work…
Thus, if a universal background check law passes to everyone is legally required to run checks before selling or transferring a gun to anyone, people will continue to use weapons to harm other people in hideous ways that make national news. Then people like Hillary will call for more “common sense” laws that either won’t do much or will seriously restrict innocent people’s ability to defend themselves and their families…
The problem with all laws about prohibiting certain classes of people from legally owning guns, whether drug users, those who have been committed, even felons, is that they will far, far, far more often rob someone of a core right who would never have misused a weapon to harm people than they will prevent gun violence. But recognizing that point requires respecting why people want a right to own weapons for self-defense or recreation or hunting in the first place, and most people advocating gun control don’t, really.
So let’s assume Hillary Clinton sees an opportunity to get to the left of Sanders on guns and possibly appeal to parts of the Democratic base that have been abandoning her for Sanders. (And if she’s not worried about Sanders at this point she should be; he had a rally of 24,000 people in Boston this weekend, and he’s been polling higher than Obama was at this point in 2007.)
The problem is, that while elements of the liberal base may want a crackdown on guns, and she may need that support to get through the primary, going big on the issue creates a Mitt Romney problem for her in the general. If she makes a big issue of it now, she’s most likely going to have to tack back to the center after staking out a more extreme positions on guns to win the primary, much the way Romney did on immigration and other issues. The contrast between Romney’s “severly conservative” primary rhetoric and his more moderate rhetoric in the general election dogged Romney, and it’s hard to see how it won’t dog Hillary Clinton on guns as well.
Because being the vocally anti-gun candidate is really bad politics. Recall what happened after the Colorado legislature passed gun restrictions in the wake of the Aurora shooting. Voters recalled the two state senators that made it happen five months later. Clinton held her press conference on guns today in New Hampshire, another swing state, where the legislature is so pro-gun in April they voted repeal the the law requiring a permit for concealed carry. (New Hampshire’s Democratic governor vetoed the bill.) Guns are also a very animating political force in Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Florida. It’s safe to say Hillary Clinton can’t just write off the swing states.
Gun violence is out of control in places like New York City, in Chicago, really Chicago, Washington, DC, you name it. Wherever liberals run these cities and have implemented these gun laws, what has happened is the only people that don’t have them are victims. They have put into play, they have implemented their utopia gun control measures in all of these places, and what’s been the result? The result is an increase in gun related crime. And it only stands to reason.
You have to acknowledge that there are mentally ill people and evil people, criminally oriented people who are not blind and are not deaf. When they see that a school is a gun-free zone and not even the security guards are armed, when they see that places like New York and Washington and Chicago have the most stringent gun controls in the country, what do they know? They know that there will be as little resistance possible to any action they want to take of a criminal nature with their gun. This is just common sense.
Every school in this country already has a utopian gun control policy that the left dreams of. You can’t get any better than no guns allowed. There’s nothing more than that you can do. No guns allowed at this particular place and a perimeter of whatever distance you proclaim. And the law-abiding will abide by that law, and they do. There aren’t any guns in those particular places. The liberal dream has come true all over the country, and yet where do all these gun crimes happen, these mass shootings? They happen in theaters. They happen in schools. They happen in places where the perpetrators happen to know there won’t be anybody firing back.
So what I want to know is, if your dream is in place, and it is failing gloriously, it is failing superbly and supremely, what is it that recommends you to do it even more all over the country?