Third presidential debate stumbles into gun rights, Second Amendment

Though the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, did not include guns as one of his selected topics for the third and final presidential debate, during an opening exchange on the Supreme Court and interpretations of the Constitution, the candidates managed to work the subject in when they argued over their respective positions on the Second Amendment and gun rights.

After reminding the audience about Justice Ginsburg’s comments regarding his suitability to be president, Trump said that we need a Supreme Court that will “uphold the Second Amendment and all amendments. But the Second Amendment, which is under absolute siege. I believe if my opponent should win this race, which I truly don’t think will happen, we will have a Second Amendment which will be a very, very small replica of what it is right now.”

Clinton reiterated her list of proposed new gun controls, stating that “we need comprehensive background checks, need to close the on-line loophole, close the gun show loophole. There’s other matters that I think are sensible that are the kind of reforms that would make a difference that are not in any way conflicting with the Second Amendment.”  In response to a question about D.C.’s handgun ban and the Heller ruling, she claimed that the goal of the ban was “to protect toddlers from guns.  And so they wanted people with guns to safely store them. And the court didn’t accept that reasonable regulation, but they’ve accepted many others.”

The Democratic nominee’s assertion was a bizarre one, considering that the ban — or more precisely, the requirement that all firearms be registered with the city while simultaneously refusing to register handguns — was imposed as a result of riots in the late 60s and the subsequent flight of more affluent residents to the suburbs due to violent crime. The law also required that legally owned rifles and shotguns be either disassembled or secured with trigger locks.  Reducing firearms deaths was the stated goal of the 1976 law, and the city council cited accidental gunfire, especially among children under the age of fourteen, as one example of what they hoped to ameliorate, as Justice Breyer pointed out in his dissent to Heller.  But D.C. continued to be one of the most violent cities in the nation in the years between the enactment de facto ban and the 2008 decision, suffering more than 8,400 homicides, they majority killed by handguns.

Clinton later said that she respects the Second Amendment and believes that there is an individual right to bear arms, though she sees “sensible commonsense regulation” as complying with that constitutionally protected right.  Calling her proposals “sensible” or “commonsense” alone apparently wasn’t enough for her this time.  Whether any of the measures that she names as ones she would like to bring into law would work is another thing entirely.  Her choices of background checks and the closing of various so-called loopholes suggests that she had mass shooters in mind, though in cases of recent note, the murderers either passed checks or obtained firearms through means that are already illegal. And if she’s concerned about toddlers, it’s unclear what any law can do, considering that the number of young children who die each year due to accidental gunfire is already so low as to be beyond the likely reach of the law.

We’ve now had three debates, and if the present polls are any reliable guide, Hillary Clinton is about to be elected our next president.  Nothing in her campaign platform is new with regard to guns — or much else, for that matter.  Perhaps this is a sign that she recognizes the political reality that gun control will not get through Congress and isn’t wanted by the voters in many states.  But it’s up to us to insist that our elected representatives stop her from doing more than giving lip service to new curtailments of gun rights.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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