There is some actual breaking news to cover in the 2016 election this week when it comes to Hillary Clinton. Hold on to your hats because she’s actually taken a position on a national issue! And to make it a truly red letter day, she’s decided to come out in favor of gun control. (From the Washington Post… emphasis added)
In her standard stump speech, Hillary Rodham Clinton talks about fighting income inequality, celebrating court rulings on gay marriage and health care, and, since the Emanuel AME Church massacre, toughening the nation’s gun laws.
That last component marks an important evolution in presidential politics. For at least the past several decades, Democrats seeking national office have often been timid on the issue of guns for fear of alienating firearms owners. In 2008, after Barack Obama took heat for his gaffe about people who “cling to guns or religion,” he rarely mentioned guns again — neither that year nor in his 2012 reelection campaign.
But in a sign that the political environment on guns has shifted in the wake of recent mass shootings — and of Clinton’s determination to stake out liberal ground in her primary race against insurgent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Clinton is not only initiating a debate about gun control but also vowing to fight the National Rifle Association.
The ditches alongside the American political highway are littered with the figurative corpses of politicians who have chosen to go to war with the NRA. (That’s a metaphor with dozen of layers, not least of which is the question of why anyone would go to war with the people who have all the weapons.) But in this case, Hillary may be falling into the trap which many observers have been waiting for her to spring. Without Elizabeth Warren in the race, the hard core Left has been showing a lot of love to Bernie Sanders. Hillary might have been able to simply ignore him all the way through and still survive (a move which might turn out to have been her best option) but if she was going to try to get to his left it was going to have to be on guns. I recently dug up some of Bernie’s history on the subject and it’s the one opening Clinton may have against him.
If Sanders has a weak spot in his armor in terms of pleasing his liberal base, it’s the gun question. Given his many other socialist positions that might come as a surprise, but Sanders’ own voting record on Second Amendment rights is shockingly moderate, or at least it was until quite recently. In 2009 he voted to allow guns in checked baggage on Amtrak trains. Two years before that he voted to prohibit funding for international organizations and agreements that would restrict US citizens’ gun rights. And in 2005 he voted for a ban on nuisance lawsuits against gun manufacturers. He currently has an “F” rating with the NRA, but in years past it has been higher. (Though never a full A rating.)
“If you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen,” he told Seven Days, an independent paper in Vermont.
Clinton, as I noted at the time, has been on every side of this issue. But since the Dylan Roof shooting she seems to have decided to dip a toe back in the Second Amendment pool.
In 2000, when running for the Senate in New York she was in favor of a national gun registry. In 2008, running against Barack Obama she spoke fondly of her father teaching her to shoot as a little girl and the importance of preserving the Second Amendment. (This led to Barack Obama’s famous “Annie Oakley” comment about Hillary during the primary.) Now that gun grabbing is back in vogue, however, Clinton was quick to jump on the bandwagon again this week.
The trend on this subject has been consistently going in one direction, particularly since the world has been becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Starting last year, there were clear majorities, rather than just pluralities, indicating that protecting gun rights was more important than any new gun control measures. Not only global events such as the rise of ISIS, (and their recruiting efforts here in America) but the riots in the streets in so many major cities seem to be pushing people to realize that they may have to protect themselves. It’s one of the few positive trends to come out of the current era of change.
Hillary Clinton has apparently decided that this is the field where she will meet and fight Bernie Sanders. I would say good for her, but actually it’s good for the GOP. Liberals tend to love to invoke phrases about their opponents being on the wrong side of history. Well, when it comes to the Second Amendment rights of Americans, Hillary just found herself on the losing end of that argument. And that leaves yours truly with only one more thing to say: