Donald Trump is trying his best to convince voters that Hillary Clinton poses a direct threat to citizens’ right to own guns.
“Hillary essentially wants to abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump said at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, on August 2. (The accusation, which regularly features in Trump’s stump speech, has been rated “False” by the fact-checking website PolitiFact.)
This argument seems to be premised on the idea that Clinton would appoint anti-gun justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that these judges would unwind the historic Heller decision, which affirmed for the first time the right of private citizens to keep and own firearms. It echoes rhetoric from the National Rifle Association, which has become an unlikely ally of the Manhattan billionaire, who has previously voiced support for gun restrictions.
Clinton, for her part, has made gun policy reform an unprecedented focal point of her campaign — a stark change from her 2008 nomination fight, when she actively courted hunters and gun owners, and avoided taking stances that might invoke the wrath of the NRA. The candidate’s website lays out a multifaceted gun plan, and nearly a full evening of the Democratic National Convention was dedicated to survivors and victims of gun violence. Clinton has said that she does not want to deprive law-abiding gun owners of their rights, that her goal instead is simply to make sure that criminals and other people who shouldn’t own guns are prevented from doing so.
“I’m not here to take away your guns,” Clinton said during her speech at the DNC. “I just don’t want you to be shot by someone who shouldn’t have a gun in the first place.”
Here is what Clinton has said about gun reform on the stump in this election, and the specific policy proposals she has championed.
Universal background checks
“Between 88 and 92 people a day are killed by guns. We’re better than this. We need to close the loopholes and support universal background checks.”
–Campaign rally in Iowa City, July 2015
Clinton pledges to implement universal background checks on gun sales, and prohibit domestic abusers and individuals who have been involuntarily committed to outpatient mental health treatment centers from buying firearms.
Open carry laws
“What about the young mom with her two kids who’s in a supermarket, and some guy gets to come in with a — you know — an AK-47 over his back because he’s got a new permit that permits him to walk around and threaten and intimidate and scare the heck out of that young mother and her children? I don’t get it.”
–Facebook, August 2015
This anecdote falls in line with statements she made at a private fundraiser the following month. While Clinton speaks derisively of open carry policies, she hasn’t directly said that she favors repealing them.
Second Amendment rights
“We’ve got to do something. It’s a very difficult political issue. But we are smart enough, compassionate enough to balance legitimate Second Amendment rights concerns with preventive measures and control measures, so whatever motivated this murderer … we will not see more needless, senseless deaths.”
–Campaign event in Ankeny, Iowa, August 2015
After the shooting of a reporter and cameraman on live television in Virginia, Clinton reaffirmed her support for the Second Amendment while pushing for certain gun restrictions like universal background checks.
The Supreme Court and guns
“The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment. And I am going to make that case every chance I get.”
–Private event in New York, New York, September 2015
This declaration, leaked from a private fundraising event, is one of the earliest examples of Clinton publicly disagreeing with the decision in Heller, which affirmed individual gun rights under the Second Amendment. In a speech at the Republican National Convention in July, the NRA’s top lobbyist, Chris Cox, said that a Clinton presidency would lead to an anti-gun Supreme Court — a claim at least partially fueled by this quote.
The National Rifle Association’s influence
“I do not believe that the NRA represents most gun owners. They sure don’t represent the majority of Americans. But they have so intimidated elected members of Congress and other legislative bodies that these people are passing the most absurd laws.”
–Private event in New York, New York, September 2015
Clinton has attacked the NRA like no other presidential candidate in U.S. history. Speaking at the same private fundraiser as cited above, Clinton declared that the NRA had too much control over politicians, and said the group does not work in the best interest of its own members. She promised attendees that she would take on the NRA if elected president.
The “Charleston loophole”
“A good first step is closing the ‘Charleston loophole’ in our gun laws, which allows a person otherwise prohibited from buying a gun — such as a domestic abuser or other violent criminal — to buy one if a background check isn’t completed within three business days. This loophole allowed the alleged Charleston shooter to buy his gun despite his prior arrest record.”
–Open letter released in June 2016, on the one-year anniversary Charleston church shooting.
Clinton has spoken frequently on the need to close the legal gap that allowed Charleston gunman Dylann Roof to buy a gun despite a prohibitive drug charge. Two survivors of the mass shooting spoke at the Democratic National Convention in July, endorsing Democratic candidate.
Special protections for the gun industry
“We hear a lot from Senator Sanders about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street and I agree — we’ve got to hold Wall Street accountable. But what about the greed and recklessness of the gun manufacturers and dealers in America?”
–Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn, New York, April 2016
Throughout the Democratic primaries, Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders for voting for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that granted gun manufacturers immunity from civil lawsuits when their guns are used in a crime. Sanders has defended his vote as a way to protect small gun stores from lawsuits. Legal experts told The Trace in October that because such lawsuits were often dismissed in courts anyway, the bill was largely created as a way to keep information about gun companies from becoming public.
“Parents, teachers, and schools should have the right to keep guns out of classrooms, just like Donald Trump does at many of his hotels.”
–Campaign event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 2016
This statement came a day after the NRA endorsed Trump, and the Republican nominee declared that as president, he would “get rid of” gun-free zones. Clinton is referencing the fact that several of his properties do not permit guns on the premises.
The terror gap
“If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorists links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun.”
–Campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, June 2016
During her first remarks following the Orlando massacre, Clinton spoke in favor of closing the “terror gap,” which allows those on federal terrorist watchlists to buy guns. The terror gap became the main focus of Democratic (and some Republican) legislators earlier this summer, and several bills to close it failed.
[AP Photo/Andrew Harnik]