Hillary Clinton on Guns: Not a Big Fan

The presidential candidate, who once supported licensing and registration, says resistance to gun control "terrorizes" the nation.



If Hillary Clinton ever gets around to telling voters her positions on controversial issues, it is not clear what she will say about gun control. Over the years, her stance has ranged from support for gun licensing and registration to an NRA-esque desire to "enforce the laws that we have on the books." Still, her disregard for armed self-defense is a fairly consistent theme. Here are some highlights since she ran for the U.S. Senate the first time:

June 1999: "If you own a gun," Clinton says on Good Morning America, "make sure it's locked up and stored without the ammunition. In fact, make it stored where the ammunition is stored separately. We've made some progress in the last several years with the Brady Bill and some of the bans on assault weapons, but we have a lot of work to do."

July 1999: "If you have guns in your home," Clinton tells middle school students on Long Island, "tell your parents to keep them away from you and your friends and your little brothers and sisters." Addressing the National Education Association in Orlando, she says, "It does not make sense for us at this point in our history to turn our backs on the reality that there are too many guns and too many children have access to those guns—and we have to act to prevent that."

June 2000: Clinton endorses a bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would requiire licensing and registration for handguns. "I stand in support of this common-sense legislation to license everyone who wishes to purchase a gun," she says. "I also believe that every new handgun sale or transfer should be registered in a national registry, such as Chuck is proposing."

August 2000: Clinton endorses a DLC position statement that says the government should "require 'smart gun' technology to prevent use of firearms by unauthorized persons."

January 2008: Asked during a Democratic presidential debate whether "you've backed off a national licensing [and] registration plan," Clinton says, "Yes." She avers that "we need to enforce the laws that we have on the books" but adds, "I would also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We now have, once again, police deaths going up around the country, and in large measure because bad guys now have assault weapons again."

April 2008: "I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns, but I also believe that most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many years across our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out of the wrong hands. And as president, I will work to try to bridge this divide, which I think has been polarizing and, frankly, doesn't reflect the common sense of the American people. We will strike the right balance to protect the constitutional right but to give people the feeling and the reality that they will be protected from guns in the wrong hands….

"What I favor is what works in New York. You know, we have a set of rules in New York City and we have a totally different set of rules in the rest of the state. What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana. So, for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they're going to try to impose, I think doesn't make sense."

May 2014: "I think again we're way out of balance. We've got to rein in what has become almost an article of faith that almost anybody can have a gun anywhere at any time. And I don't believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people."

June 2014: "I believe that we need a more thoughtful conversation," Clinton says while promoting her memoir on CNN. "We cannot let a minority of people—and that's what it is, it is a minority of people—hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people." She says she favors "background checks that work" and twice refers erroneously to mass shooters with "automatic" weapons.

Even when she was trying to come across as a supporter of the Second Amendment while running for president in 2008, Clinton declined to say whether the District of Columbia's handgun ban, which was then facing a challenge before the Supreme Court, was constitutional. Here is the exchange she had with moderator George Stephanopoulos on the subject at a Democratic debate in April 2008:

Stephanopoulos: Do you support the D.C. ban?

Clinton: You know, George, I want to give local communities the opportunity to have some authority over determining how to keep their citizens safe.

This case you're referring to, before the Supreme Court, is apparently dividing the Bush administration. You know, the Bush administration basically said, we don't have enough facts to know whether or not it is appropriate.

And Vice President Cheney—who, you know, is a fourth special branch of government all unto himself [laughter]—has actually filed a brief saying, oh, no, we have to, you know, we have to prevent D.C. from doing this.


Stephanopoulos: But what do you think? Do you support it or not?

Clinton: Well, what I support is sensible regulation that is consistent with the constitutional right to own and bear arms.

Stephanopoulos: Is the D.C. ban consistent with that right?

Clinton: Well, I think a total ban, with no exceptions under any circumstances, might be found by the court not to be. But I don't know the facts.

But I don't think that should blow open a hole that says that D.C. or Philadelphia or anybody else cannot come up with sensible regulations to protect their people and keep, you know, machine guns and assault weapons out of the hands of folks who shouldn't have them.

Barack Obama, by contrast, explicitly said the D.C. law—which effectively made it illegal to keep long guns as well as handguns in the home for self-defense—was constitutional before the Court struck it down. Then again, by insisting that guns be stored separately from ammunition, Clinton shows that she does not much care whether people are able to use them for home defense.