Trump foes miss the mark on Clinton's Second Amendment stand

Donald Trump keeps saying that Hillary Clinton wants to “essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”  But the media fact checkers are having none of it. Last week, CNN called his accusation “persistent” and “false.” At the same time, a Washington Post editorial also called the claim “absurd.”  

In his analysis for CNN, Eric Bradner acknowledges Clinton’s support for many different types of gun control -- a 25 percent tax on handguns, an assault weapons ban, repeal of laws allowing permitted concealed handguns, and background checks on the private transfer of guns. Clinton also has supported increased fees and a variety of regulations that her husband imposed. Thanks to Bill Clinton’s regulations, the number of licensed firearms dealers from 248,155 in 1992 to 67,479 in 2000 -- a 73 percent reduction.

The media picks and chooses when to take Clinton at her word.  CNN pointed to a recent Fox News Sunday appearance where Hillary Clinton claimed:  "I'm not looking to repeal the Second Amendment. I'm not looking to take people's guns away."  The Washington Post noted a statement from her campaign website about how “gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities.”

But in June, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pushed Clinton twice on whether people have a right to own guns. “But that's not what I asked.  I said do you believe that their conclusion that an individual's right to bear arms is a constitutional right?”  Clinton could only say: “If it is a constitutional right . . . .”

Similarly, in New York City in the fall, she told donors: “The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment, and I am going to make that case every chance that I get.” In Maryland in April, Chelsea Clinton promised that her mom would appoint to the Supreme Court justices who would overturn past decisions that struck down gun-control measures.  But the only laws that the Supreme Court evaluated were complete gun bans and a law that made it a crime to use a gun.

Washington, D.C., had a complete handgun ban in place until 2008. It was also a felony, punishable by five years in prison, to put a bullet in the chamber of a gun. This amounted to a complete gun ban on using guns for self-defense. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller struck down that ban.

Clinton told Stephanopoulos her opinion of this ruling: “I think that for most of our history, there was a nuanced reading of the Second Amendment until the decision by the late Justice Scalia.” She continued, “There was no argument until then that localities and states and the federal government had a right, as we do with every amendment, to impose reasonable regulation.”

Clinton went on to talk about her push for expanded background checks, an issue that was irrelevant to Scalia’s decision in Heller. Instead, the question is why was D.C.’s local gun ban a “reasonable regulation.” Why should people be imprisoned for five years for defending their families?

In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent: "I can find nothing in the Second Amendment’s text, history, or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as ‘fundamental’ insofar as it seeks to protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor signed on to Breyer’s opinion.

Breyer and Ginsburg were both appointed by President Bill Clinton. Sotomayor was Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court. Obama’s second nominee, Elana Kagan, would clearly have voted the same way had she been on the court at the time of McDonald.  Indeed, Kagan served in Bill Clinton’s administration and helped lead the President’s gun control initiatives.

The Washington Post dismisses all this talk about the Supreme Court by saying that appointing Justices to the court “would not be anything like abolishing an amendment, which no court can do.”  And it is true that the court can’t simply remove the amendment from the Constitution. But the media is appearing to be deliberately obtuse.  If the court reverses Heller and McDonald and changes its interpretation of the Second Amendment as Hillary promises, what will really be left of the Second Amendment?

The media might not like to admit it, but The War on Guns is real. If Hillary wins in November, she will appoint Scalia’s successor and the Supreme Court will overturn the Heller and McDonald decisions.  Make no mistake about it, the government will again be able to ban guns. Her claim that she isn't “looking to take people's guns away” is not consistent with her promise to overturn existing Supreme Court decisions.