President Obama has served his time as public enemy number one, according to the gun lobby, and it should come as no surprise that he’s planning to announce his backing of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
“He has indicated he wants to spend a lot of time on the campaign trail, so when it’s time to do that, we’ll go out guns ablazing,” said Jennifer Psaki, Obama’s communications director, in an interview Monday with the New York Times. “We are actively thinking through how to use the president on the campaign trail — what works for the nominee, what works for him, and how to utilize his strengths and his appeal.”
Not only will Obama give Hillary Clinton his endorsement, but his campaign has said he’s also going to stump for her, making him the foil in a narrative that proliferated in the gun rights community when Obama took office – that Democrats are coming for your guns.
In a public town hall meeting hosted last week by PBS’ “NewsHour,” one audience member held Obama’s feet to the fire, asking him to answer for his and Clinton’s seemingly anti-Second Amendment policy.
“Knowing that we apply common sense to other issues in our society, specifically like holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions when they drink and drive and kill somebody, and we do that without restricting control of cars and cells phones to the rest of us, the good guys, why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?” asked gun shop owner Doug Rhude.
Obama said that wasn’t the case – that he and Clinton weren’t trying to take Americans’ guns away.
“And I don’t care how many times the NRA says it,” Obama said. “I’m about to leave office. There have been more guns sold since I have been president than just about any time in U.S. history. There are enough guns for every man, woman and child in this country.”
Clinton has received her fair share of criticism for her stance on gun control. She was most recently attacked for not clearly stating whether the Second Amendment guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Stephanopoulos brought up Trump’s claim that Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment and asked her if she thought the right to bear arms was a constitutional right not linked to service in a militia.
“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 and 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 said. “So I believe we can have common sense gun safety measures consistent with the Second Amendment, and, in fact, what I have proposed is supported by 90 percent of the American people and more than 75 percent of responsible gun owners.”
Clinton has used the two figures before to bolster her proposition for what has become known as universal background checks – or a mechanism for ensuring that federal background checks are performed in every state on every gun purchase, including at gun shows, online and between private parties. Gun rights advocates claim closing the loophole is redundant because the transactions require a federal firearms licensee to facilitate a transfer and criminals don’t submit for background checks anyway.
Clinton’s 90 percent figure has been disputed, but several polls back her claim that a large majority of Americans support background checks. The claim that 75 percent of gun owners do too has also fallen under scrutiny in the gun rights community. That number likely came from a survey commissioned by gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns – now part of the Everytown for Gun Safety network – and conducted by conservative pollster Frank Luntz.
Stephanopoulos and Clinton then agreed the District of Columbia v. Heller decision stated the Second Amendment wasn’t unlimited and the ABC anchor asked Clinton to clarify whether she thought that bearing arms was a constitutional right.
“If it is a constitutional right, then it, like every other constitutional right, is subject to reasonable regulation,” Clinton said. “And what people have done with that decision is to take it as far as they possibly can and reject what has been our history from the very beginning of the republic, where some of the earliest laws that were passed were about firearms.”
With a vacancy on the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and potential future vacancies on an aging bench, gun rights proponents are fearful Clinton will appoint liberal, anti-gun judges who could overturn Heller and effectively open the flood gates to gun ban legislation.
“It’s time for someone to ask Clinton a simple question: Won’t overturning the Heller decision make gun bans possible again? If so, exactly how is Donald Trump’s statement wrong?” wrote pro-gun economist John Lott in a Fox News opinion piece.