Before he began campaigning for president, Donald Trump said he supported assault weapons bans and a waiting period for gun purchases. In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, he criticized National Rifle Association members who “walk the line” and “don’t look into firearms restrictions.”
In 2008, Hillary Clinton courted hunters and gun owners, and avoided taking stances that might invoke retribution from the National Rifle Association.
Times have changed. Clinton has made gun reform a central plank of her 2016 campaign, and Donald Trump now describes himself as a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights and a close ally of the NRA, who he described during the first presidential debate as “very, very good people.”
Direct quotes from the Democratic nominee on gun control, the Second Amendment, and the NRA.
Earlier in the election season, we shared key comments that Clinton has made during this current run for office on the NRA, gun reform, and the Second Amendment.
Now we turn to Trump, who began to publicly embrace gun rights in the wake of high-profile mass shootings in 2015. In September of that year, he published a policy paper called “Donald J. Trump on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.” (Today the link goes to a short series of bullet points about Second Amendment rights.)
The paper, which The Trace annotated when it debuted, began with Trump stating that he would fully protect the right to bear arms as president. It includes familiar GOP policy prescriptions — enforcing existing gun laws, compelling states to enter more mental health records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — while reinforcing gun owners’ rights to self-defense, suggesting that reciprocity for concealed carry permits should extend across all 50 states and that military personnel should be armed at domestic installations.
Here is what Trump has said about nine important gun issues, in his own words.
Universal background checks
“What we need to do is fix the system we have and make it work as intended. What we don’t need to do is expand a broken system.”
Trump said last year in a policy paper that “few criminals are stupid enough to try and pass a background check” and that expanding background checks would only penalize lawful gun owners.
“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”
— Campaign rally in Burlington, Vermont, January 2016
Throughout his campaign, Trump has said that armed citizens could have stopped shootings — in San Bernardino, in Chattanooga, and in Orlando. Of the massacre at the nightclub, where guns were not permitted, the candidate said, “if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.”
National right to carry
“The right of self-defense doesn’t stop at the end of your driveway … A driver’s license works in every state, so it’s common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state.”
Trump supports legislation that requires states to recognize concealed carry permits from other states, a key priority for the NRA.
The Supreme Court and guns
“I’ll tell you what … you lost a great one with Scalia. We want to replace with justices very much like Justice Scalia and that’s going to happen. It is so important.”
— Campaign rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, August 2016
Antonin Scalia is known for writing the majority opinion in the landmark gun rights decision District of Columbia v. Heller, which upheld a citizen’s right to bear arms and to keep a gun for self-defense. In May, Trump released a list of justices to potentially fill his seat on the Supreme Court. At least three of the potential picks — Diane Sykes, Thomas Hardiman and Allison Eid — have ruled against gun control measures.
Assault weapons ban
“Gun and magazine bans are a total failure.”
— Donald J. Trump on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, September 2015
The candidate says that law-abiding citizens should be allowed to own the firearms of their choice.
Mental health and gun violence
“Guns, [or] no guns, [it] doesn’t matter. You have people that are mentally ill and they’re going to come through the cracks and they’re going to do things that people will not even believe are possible.”
Trump says mental illness, not access to guns, is what drives mass shootings. His Second Amendment policy paper calls for mental health reform, but does not offer specific details. “We must expand treatment programs, and reform the laws to make it easier to take preventive action to save innocent lives,” it reads.
Urban gun violence
“We have a situation where we have our inner cities, African-Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot.”
—Presidential Debate in Hempstead, New York, September 2016
Trump has repeatedly called for “law and order” to reduce gun violence in cities, emphasizing the need for policing practices like stop-and-frisk. In a Florida town hall meeting the day after his first debate against Hillary Clinton, he reiterated his support for the controversial tactic and said it would save African-American and Hispanic lives.
The terror gap
“We have to look very strongly at no-fly lists and watchlists and when people are on there, even if they shouldn’t be on there, we’ll help them, we’ll help them legally, we will help them get off.”
— Presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, September 2016
Trump surprised viewers during the first presidential debate by agreeing with Hillary Clinton’s statement that people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list should not be able to buy a gun — a policy known as “no fly, no buy.” However, Trump appears to support a version of legislation endorsed by the NRA, which does not impose a full ban on citizens whose names appear on the list.
The National Rifle Association’s influence
“I have the endorsement of the NRA which I’m very proud of, these are very, very good people and they’re protecting the Second Amendment.”
— Presidential debate in Long Island, New York, September 2016
Trump has been vocal about his support for the NRA and spoke at the group’s annual meeting in Louisville this summer. The group has poured $36.3 million into electing Trump, more than it has spent on any other presidential election in history.
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]