Dem Debate: O’Malley Busts Clinton for 16 years of Fluctuating Positions on Gun Control

Dem Debate Iowa (Alex Wong / Getty)
Alex Wong / Getty

During the November 14 Democrat debate presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley called out Hillary Clinton for supporting gun control in 2000 then trying to act like “Annie Oakley” in 2008.

O’Malley looked at Clinton and said, “When you ran in 2000 you said that we needed federal robust [gun control] regulations. Then, in 2008, you were portraying yourself as Annie Oakley and saying that we don’t need those regulations on the federal level. And now you come back around here [to gun control].”

Even as O’Malley spoke, Clinton moaned in disagreement. Especially when he said that she spoke out against federal regulations while running for the Democrat nomination for 2008. But the facts are that Clinton spoke against the passage of any federal regulations that would interfere with state statutes in 2008–she was specifically referencing statutes in New York when she did it, but she did it nonetheless.

In truth, Clinton’s position on guns has bounced back and forth between varying degrees of pro-gun and anti-gun during the last 16 years, depending on the positions taken by those against whom she has campaigned or the groups to which she has spoken in various election cycles.

Because of this, she could campaign on gun storage and “smart gun” technology requirements in 1999/2000, then speak out against any new gun laws in 2008, then not only float the idea of gun confiscation in 2015 but actually pledge to use executive action to circumvent Congress and secure more gun control.

At various points during the summer of 1999, Hillary spoke in favor of storage requirements, telling adults and children alike the importance of storing guns properly.

According to On The Issues, during a June 4, 1999, appearance on Good Morning America Hillary said, “If you own a gun… 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.” Less than two weeks later–on July 15, 1999–Hillary told children at South Side Middle School in Nassau County, New York, “We will not make progress on a sensible gun control agenda unless the entire American public gets behind it. It is really important for each of you [kids] to make sure you stay away from guns. If you have guns in your home, tell your parents to keep them away from you and your friends and your little brothers and sisters.”

On August 1, 2000, she said the government should “require” gun manufactures to undertake the development of  “smart gun” technology. Then, in July 2005, she voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA); an act designed to protect gun makers from frivolous lawsuits resulting from the criminal misuse of their products.  Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sander voted for the PLCAA, supporting the position that gun makers ought not be liable for actions of criminals who acquire guns by any means necessary then misuse them.

Clinton stepped up her gun control push at the 2007 South Carolina Democrat primary debate by focusing on background checks in light of Seung-hui Cho’s April 16, 2007, attack on students at Virginia Tech University. The problem–Cho passed a background check to acquire his gun. So Clinton used Cho’s passage of a check to argue the system did not work properly–she claimed he should not have been able to pass a check because  he had been “involuntarily” committed for mental treatment.

But On The Issues 2007 Democrat Debate fact check discovered that Cho had not been involuntarily committed. Therefore, there was no reason why he ought not to have passed the check.

It was around this same time that Clinton pivoted, attempting to counter a statement by Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois), who had suggested too many Americans “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them … as a way to explain their frustrations.”

According to The Washington Times Clinton was speaking to an audience in Indiana when she said:

I disagree with Senator Obama’s assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about trade and immigration simply out of frustration. You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl.

You know, some people now continue to teach their children and their grandchildren. It’s part of culture. It’s part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it’s an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter.

Then, in January 2008, The New York Times reported Clinton speaking in favor a registry from which to run background checks on gun purchases. Yet her position was conflicted because she simultaneously stated opposition to federal statutes “preempting” state gun laws. Again, this was the very point O’Malley was making when Clinton moaned in disagreement during the Democrat debate.

She added:

And we need to enforce the laws that we have on the books. 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. We stopped it for awhile. Now they’re back on the streets. So there are steps we need to take that we should do together. You know, I believe in the Second Amendment. People have a right to bear arms. But I also believe that we can common-sensically approach this.

So in a period of 10 years Clinton went from all gun control all the time to “I believe in the Second Amendment” and “enforce the laws…on the books.” Then came 2014 and 2015, and Clinton’s last best opportunity to gain the Democrat nomination for president. So no holds were barred.

At a  June 17, 2014, town hall Clinton was asked about gun control and she spoke in support of an “assault weapons” ban and a “high capacity” magazine ban. She went on to state her belief that gun owners are a minority of the population “[holding] a viewpoint which terrorizes the majority of the people.”

Clinton added:

But the vast majority of Americans–even law-abiding gun owners–want background checks that work, information that is shared immediately, and an awareness that we’re going to have to do a better job protecting the vast majority of our citizens–including our children–from that very, very small group that is unfortunately prone to violence, and now with automatic weapons, can wreak so much more violence.

It would not be the last time Clinton described common, everyday semi-automatic handguns and rifles as “automatic weapons.” She did the same thing at Keene State College on October 16 when she said the goal of Australia’s government in confiscating guns from citizens was to “clamp down on the availability of automatic weapons.” But this was not so. The Australian government confiscated 650,000 guns in the 1990s for the purposes of disarming the population in general, not for the purposes of “[clamping] down on the availability of automatic weapons.”

But the most troubling aspect of Clinton’s Keene State speech was her admission that she believes Australian-style confiscation is “worth looking at” for gun policy in America.

It is interesting to note that O’Malley accused Clinton of “leading by polls” rather than “leading by principle” during the Democrat Debate. If her positions on guns are any indicator, O’Malley may be on to something.

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