Presidential Debate

The President Can't Stop Gun Violence

Clinton and Trump agree on a fantasy of presidential power to keep guns out of bad hands in a manner that would be effective, constitutional, and not harass the innocent more than stop the guilty. It can't be done.


At tonight's presidential debate, both the National Rifle Association's candidate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton talked a lot about the fact that people are using guns to kill other people in America, in Trump's case particularly emphasizing the city streets of Chicago which is, as he points out, President Obama's hometown.

Andrew Gombert/Newscom

Knowing they had an audience to impress in thrall to the notion that all the ills and joys of the nation are in the hands of the imperial presidency, both candidates made it clear, not that they actually had a meaningful, workable, and constitutional solution to the problem of gun violence, but that they wanted to bluster as if they did.

Clinton declared that "we've got to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. The gun epidemic is the leading cause of death of young African- American men, more than the next nine causes put together. So…we have to tackle the plague of gun violence."

Hillary declares later that "Too many young African-American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offenses" but seems unaware that merely possessing a gun when one is legally prohibited from doing so is, in and of itself, a nonviolent offense (if one has used the gun to harm someone else, that's a different story), and one she wants cracked down on.

Clinton states, carefully using the new language that avoids mentioning "gun control" in favor of "commonsense gun safety measures" that she wants to, through unspecified means, get "military-style" weapons off the streets (though they are used in a vanishingly small percentage of gun crimes), and that we "need comprehensive background checks, and we need to keep guns out of the hands of those who will do harm."

We already have federal laws requiring background checks on guns sold by licensed firearms dealers, so what she's asking for is something like "universal background checks" in which every private firearm sale must by law go through a similar background check, usually in such proposals by using a licensed dealer as a middleman of sorts.

Given the wide range of Americans who by law should be prevented from buying a gun via such background checks, from felons to the adjudicated mentally ill to illegal drug users, such laws would, if stringently enforced, almost certainly cause more "young African-American and Latino men" to end up in jail "for nonviolent offenses" than it would keep guns from "those who will do harm" (as opposed to those who merely fall into a legally prohibited category, the overwhelming majority of whom would not "do harm" to another with a gun).

Trump tries to say the same thing about the president's power over gun violence but in language that sounds somehow tougher, calling on the old right-wing shibboleth of "law and order."

He openly called for a return to the discredited, legally and empirically (as Anthony Fisher explained earlier tonight), policy of just stopping people randomly on the streets to see if they have a gun on them and trying to take it away.

"We have to be strong, we have to be vigilant," Trump said, expressing his opinion as if it is policy without bothering to note that city police practices are neither in the hands of nor the business of the president of the federal government.

It's a bitter delight to see the NRA's man loudly proclaiming that being suspected of carrying a weapon in public is something that should leave you liable to being harassed by a cop and having to prove you are not a "bad [person] who shouldn't have them." That Trump's first, easy and certain, response to this perceived crisis in public order is an instant abandonment of core constitutional liberties like the 4th amendment should be disquieting, but it's not that we didn't already know.

Nor should it be a surprise that the two candidates are hand-in-hand in selling the lie that the president has or ought to have the power to prevent gun violence in city streets. We should remember the context that, despite a disquieting rise in certain cities in the past year or so (as Jesse Walker reported today), we saw as of 2015 "the sixth lowest homicide rate of the last half-century."

NEXT: Hillary Clinton Just Made the Same Point About Obama Not Ending the Iraq War That Romney Did in in 2012

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. But they can take guns away from law abiding citizens. Guns are a wedge culture war issue at this stage. Hillary will appoint judges who will sign off on the blatantly unconstitutional bullshit places like DC try to pull. Court strikes law down, they tweak it ever so slightly and make citizens litigate for their rights all over again.

    1. …or…!

    2. I Make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $70h to $86h..Go to this website and click tech tab to start your work.Visit this web…

  2. The President Can’t Stop Gun Violence

    Not with that attitude.

    I don’t know how many times Trump used the phrase “stop and frisk” tonight, but he definitely had it in his teeth and wasn’t letting go. He likes his buzzwords and that counts as one people at least associate with crime fighting. I look forward to him denying he ever advocated for it.

  3. Here’s an idea – promote some alternate, fairer debate format where some 3rd party candidates will appear and the duopoly candidates will be invited. If the duopolists don’t show up, then their celebrity fans (like Natalie Portman), will appear instead.

    Then to promote this debate at the expense of the CPD farce, Johnson should run some of the weirdest clips from the CPD debate tonight and ask, “do you want to see a debate that *isn’t* retarded and which deals with *real* issues? Check out our debate instead!”

    1. Assumes that Gary Johnson can’t make his reasonable positions sound retarded.

      1. You’re assuming that Johnson is the stealth candidate I’m promoting.

        But actually, I’ve listened to Castle’s broadcasts. He has a really Shattnerian delivery, putting the emphasis in his sentences in the wrong places.

        But I accept the risk that the candidate I prefer may get beat like a red-headed stepchild in this debate format.

        A fair debate is still good for the country, right?

        1. Is this the new testament party guy who thinks the first amendment has to do with claiming the xian sky-daddy is the right one, eddy?

          1. Sevo, *do* try to keep up, I just said that Castle might not do well in a debate, I was conceding a point unfavorable to my side because that’s where the evidence is.

            1. It’s great intellectual exercise, other people should try it, hint, hint.

            2. The Fusionist|9.27.16 @ 12:24AM|#
              “Sevo, *do* try to keep up, I just said that Castle might not do well in a debate,”

              So you admit you’re promoting the guy who can’t read the first amendment and you do so by admitting you can’t read my question?
              *Do* try to learn reading, eddy; it might help an imbecile such as yourself.

              1. I kind of skimmed your question. The usual stuff about a sky daddy, etc.

                1. By the way, Sevo, was Jesus Christ a historical figure?

                  1. (I don’t remember if you expressed a view on this before)

                2. The Fusionist|9.27.16 @ 12:35AM|#
                  “I kind of skimmed your question. The usual stuff about a sky daddy, etc.”

                  Yeah, not surprising.
                  I read your post; the usual stuff about hoping no one notices you’re pushing superstition.

                    1. “Someone needs a hug”

                      Yeah, eddy, I’m sure you do.
                      Whoring for attention, answering your own posts…
                      Does your dog not like you?

                    2. My dog is jealous of all the time I spend with…no, no, never mind.

                      Watch one of AC’s music videos instead.

        2. Oh, another thing we ought to do is eliminate the (Lyndon) Johnson Amendment.

          This says that nonprofit groups get their tax exemption yanked if the IRS believes they’re endorsing or opposing candidates.

          Skip all the philosophical arguments about how taxing someone in retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights is a Bad Thing.

          We know in practice that this law is administered to favor the duopoly. The CPD obviously opposes third-party candidates by excluding them, but the IRS gives them a pass.

          A competing debate organization, however, will get the full Lois Lerner treatment if it excludes, say, some really lame and silly party (I mean a small party).

  4. The largest grouping of gun violence comes from inner cities where most of the guns are illegally obtained. Gun control won’t do shit about it.

    But nobody really seems to be in favor of sending the police in to go get those illegal guns either.

    It’s the circle… the circle of life.

    1. But nobody really seems to be in favor of sending the police in to go get those illegal guns either.

      What do you think stop and frisk is?

    2. The largest grouping of gun violence, unless something has radically changed since I last examined the issue, comes from turf disputes between drug gangs. Do away with the spectacularly futile Drug War and they would be able to settle disputes in court.

      Doesn’t mean they WOULD, mind, but seems to me it’s worth trying.

  5. You know who else told lies while making speeches?

    1. Characters played by John Lovitz?

    2. Captain Kirk making hsi “I am telling a lie” speech to the computer?

      1. Wasn’t that Harry Mudd and didn’t he tell that speech to a robot?

    3. Wait, I know, Charles II when denying the existence of the Secret Treaty of Dover in his speech to Parliament?

  6. As a certified firearms safety instructor, I deeply dislike the Left’s fetish of calling their gun control schemes “gun safety”. That’s bullshit.

    1. that’s just one more part of their snowjob on the American People. They’re dishonest,deceitful. they can’t have the people learning the truth.

  7. They want to win, and they have a narrative [“common sense and reasonable,” “weapons of war,”
    “stop and frisk” etc etc] and they’re sticking to it because the average voter is just as stupid as Gruber says they are.

    Otherwise we would not be seeing these two despicable clowns on the national stage. Very few of us actually want to hear a measured discussion about real issues. That would be like reading The Economist or some such. Give me entertainment instead, and make it easy for me while your’re at it. Throw in a curvaceous celebrity and that’ll do it.

    1. Pray tell, who is this curvaceous celebrity you speak of? Can’t be Hillary or Trump…

  8. “we’ve got to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. The gun epidemic is the leading cause of death of young African- American men…

    …at the hands of other young, African-american men. And by “those that should not have them, she means everyone who is not a gov’t agent.


    Better be prepared to turn in your 2nd model Brown Bess. It may not be current, but it IS a “military” weapon.

  9. My Uncle Samuel recently got a nice month old Infiniti QX SUV only from working part time online
    see more at———–>>>

  10. RE: The President Can’t Stop Gun Violence

    It’s time to give up all your guns bitches!

  11. Minnesota law makes possession of a carry permit an affirmative defense. The police can stop anyone who they have “reasonable suspicion” is carrying a firearm to inquire. This causes no ptoblrms here.

  12. Giant Douche or Turd Sandwich. SMDH

    1. No, no, no. This election is between an asshole and a cunt.

      1. They’re both running for orifice.

  13. I disagree

    If you really want to reduce the level of violence, there is a simple solution. It doesn’t tread on anyone’s Constitutional rights, and it doesn’t require new laws. History shows that it worked well in Boston and New York City (before “stop and frisk”). It works like this: (1) find probable cause (which is easy); (2) arrest of firearms possession; (3) the offender will almost always be a felon; and (4) prosecute in Federal court, where the penalty for a felon in possession of a firearm is a ten year mandatory sentence. The overwhelming majority of the firearms homicides are related to the drug trade or gangs. Prosecuting for drug trafficking is very difficult, while getting felons on firearms possession is very easy. And it’s effective: Boston and NYC had high levels of violet crime in areas controlled by gangs. Putting their foot-soldiers away for ten years caused the gangs to melt like snow.

    The President can do something about the violence in our cities: demand that DOJ accept federal firearms possession cases, insist that federal agents pursue such cases, and encourage state and local government to give the feds such cases.

  14. When Trump attacked Hillary saying he hadn’t done anything for the poor in 30 years she should’ve said that there are major economic trends such as globalization, mechanization, and the decline in the value of unskilled labor which are far beyond the control of a mere politician. Unfortunately that goes against the “I’ll fix everything” slogan of both candidates so they would never admit this. Every presidential candidate in my lifetime has promised the impossible, to bring back manufacturing jobs to the rust belt.

  15. stolen guns will not be going through any background check,”universal” or not. FEDGOV alone is missing several thousand of their guns,some being machine guns. State and local police have their guns stolen a lot more than they like to admit. Some police don’t even lock their vehicles. An Orlando police CHIEF,Val Demings,had her issued handgun stolen from her unmarked SUV back in 2009,it still hasn’t been recovered.
    (she’s now running for Fl. Representative,she’s only had gov’t jobs her whole life)

  16. Regarding “weapons of war”;
    the Second Amendment of the Constitution is NOT ABOUT hunting or sporting.
    semi-auto,magazine-fed rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47 are today’s modern MILITIA weapons,and thus should be the most protected of firearms under the Second Amendment.

    Militiamen were expected to appear for muster bearing arms and ammo similar to and compatible with what the Regular military had in use AT THAT TIME.
    Since we “compromised” and restricted ownership of full-auto,true assault rifles,that leaves the semi-auto versions for civilian militia use.

    In US v Miller,SCOTUS asked if a short-barreled shotgun was a weapon that a militia would commonly use,implying that arms protected by the 2nd Amendment were arms a militia would use. AR-15’s,M-16’s and AK-47s would be ordinary militia arms,and “hi-capacity magazines” also would be protected.

    it’s VERY clear the Founders INTENDED that civilians have “weapons of war”,militia arms suitable for militia purposes,that include combat.

    1. Bryce . even though Samuel `s story is unbelievable… on tuesday I bought a great Peugeot 205 GTi after making $4790 this – four weeks past an would you believe $10k last month . it’s definitly the most-comfortable work Ive ever done . I actually started 4 months ago and right away startad earning more than $85 p/h . find more info


    2. Bryce . even though Samuel `s story is unbelievable… on tuesday I bought a great Peugeot 205 GTi after making $4790 this – four weeks past an would you believe $10k last month . it’s definitly the most-comfortable work Ive ever done . I actually started 4 months ago and right away startad earning more than $85 p/h . find more info


  17. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.