The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
A few weeks ago, an adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign claimed that Clinton believes the Supreme Court's decision in D.C. v. Heller, concluding that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, was wrongly decided. This comment was consistent with remarks Clinton made last year. These remarks, and resulting commentary, have prompted debate on whether Clinton opposes gun rights.
Yesterday, on ABC News "This Week," George Stephanopoulos asked Clinton about the subject. Here's the relevant portion of the transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the Second Amendment. As you know, Donald Trump has also been out on the stump, talking about the Second Amendment, saying you want to abolish the Second Amendment.
I know you reject that. But I—but I want to ask you a specific question.
Do you believe that an individual's right to bear arms is a constitutional right, that it's not linked to service in a militia?
CLINTON: 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.
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.
So that is exactly what I think is constitutionally permissible.
And once again, you have Donald Trump just making outright fabrications, accusing me of something that is absolutely untrue. But I'm going to continue to speak out for comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loopholes, closing the online loophole, closing the so-called Charleston loophole, reversing the bill that Senator Sanders voted for and I voted against, giving immunity from liability to gun makers and sellers. I think all of that can and should be done and it is, in my view, consistent with the "Constitution."
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the "Heller" decision also does say there can be some restrictions.
But that's what I asked.
I said do you believe that their conclusion that an individual's right to bear arms is a constitutional right?
CLINTON: If it is a constitutional right, then it, like every other constitutional right, is subject to reasonable regulation. 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.
So I think it's important to recognize that reasonable people can say, as I do, responsible gun owners have a right—I have no objection to that. But the rest of the American public has a right to require certain kinds of regularity, responsible actions to protect everyone else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How far would you go on that?
Back in—back in 1993—I don't want to show it right here—you actually came out in support of the gun tax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you react to a 25 percent sales tax on hand guns and on automatic weapons?
CLINTON: I'm all for that. I just don't know what else we're going to do to try to figure out how to get some handle on this violence.
We will look at your proposal and be happy to talk with you about it. I'm speaking personally, but I feel very strongly about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you still believe that?
CLINTON: What I was saying back then was that we have a lot of public health costs that taxpayers end up paying for through Medicaid, Medicare, through uncompensated care, because that was in the context of the push for health care reform and that we needed some way to try to defray those costs.
And I'm not going to commit to any specific proposal. I was speaking personally then. I would have to consider any proposal in light of how it interacted with all the others that we want to continue to advocate for, particularly, as I said, comprehensive background checks.
But that was in the context of health care.
When you have mass shootings, you not only have the terrible deaths, you have people who are injured. You know, I was just in San Bernardino yesterday. And I met some of the survivors. One woman who was shot twice, who's had a series of surgeries. Two other women who were cowering in abject terror by the terrorists' unbelievable assault on their co-workers.
What they talked to me about is where do they get the financial support to deal with both the physical and the emotional trauma?
You know, is it workman's comp support, which is one of the arguments?
Is it private insurance?
Is it because they work for the county, something the county should pay for?
There are real costs that people incur because of the terrible gun violence epidemic.
And we have to deal with it. And I'm going to be looking for ways to deal with it. I'm not committed to anything other than what I've said in this campaign.
But I do want people to ask themselves, can't we do better than have 33,000 people killed every year by guns and many thousands more injured?
And I take we can.
Should these remarks be reassuring to gun owners and gun rights supporters? I'll let readers be the judge.
[On an unrelated note, I continue to believe that George Stephanopoulos should remind viewers that he used to work for the Clintons every time he reports on the Clinton campaign or interviews someone about the campaign.]