One of the very first topics in the third and last presidential debate: gun control. As the moderator pointed out, the candidate’s views on gun control was one of the top voted questions on their online poll. As expected, Donald Trump responded with a full throated and boilerplate NRA-endorsed defense of gun rights. Hillary Clinton offered her now standard “I support the Second Amendment but…” line, with an interesting twist.
She claims that her opposition to the Heller decision, the biggest gun rights win in the Supreme Court in recent memory, is only because it supposedly puts the lives of children at risk. She claimed to support the right of people to bear arms for self defense, but in the same breath claims that the Supreme Court “got it wrong” when they act to support that very same right for people to have a loaded firearm in their home. Because we need to think of the children.
Transcript from VOX:
Wallace: Secretary Clinton, thank you. Mr. Trump, same question. Where do you want to see the court take the country and how do you believe the constitution should be interpreted?
Donald Trump: Well, first of all, it’s great to be with you and thank you, everybody. The Supreme Court, it’s what it’s all about. Our country is so, so, just so imperative that we have the right justices. Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people, many, many millions of people that I represent, and she was forced to apologize and apologize she did. But these were statements that should never ever have been made.
We need a supreme court that, in my opinion, is going to 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. But I feel that it’s absolutely important that we recall because of the fact that it is under such trauma. I feel that the justices that I am going to appoint — and I’ve named 20 of them — the justices that I’m going to appoint will be pro-life, they will have a conservative bent, they will be protecting the second amendment, they are great scholars in all cases and they’re people of tremendous respect. They will interpret the constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted.
And I believe that’s very, very important. I don’t think we should have justices appointed that decide what they want to hear.
It’s all about the constitution of — and so important, the constitution the way it was meant to be and those are the people that I will appoint.
Wallace: We now have 10 minutes for open discussion. I want to focus on two issues that in fact by the justices that you name could end up changing the existing law of the land. First is one that you mentioned, Mr. Trump, and that is guns. Secretary Clinton you said last year, and let me quote, the Supreme Court is wrong on the second amendment.
Now in fact in the 2008 Heller case, the court ruled that there is a constitutional right to bear arms but a right that is reasonably limited. Those were the words of the Judge Antonin Scalia, who wrote the decision. What’s wrong with that?
Clinton: Well, first of all, I support the second amendment. I lived in Arkansas for 18 wonderful years. I represented upstate New York. I understand and respect the tradition of gun ownership. It goes back to the founding of our country. But I also believe that there can be and must be reasonable regulation. Because I support the second amendment doesn’t mean that I want people who shouldn’t have guns to be able to threaten you, kill you or members of your family.
And so when I think about what we need to do, we have 33,000 people a year who die from guns. I think we need comprehensive background checks. We need to close the online loophole, close the gun show loophole. There are 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.
You mentioned the Heller decision, and what I was saying that you reference, Chris, was that I disagreed with the way the court applied the second amendment in that case. Because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was protect toddlers from guns. They wanted people with guns to safely store them, and the court didn’t accept that reasonable regulation, but they’ve accepted many other.
I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the second amendment.
Wallace: Let me bring Mr. Trump in here. The bipartisan open debate coalition got millions of votes on questions to ask here, and this was, in fact, one of the top questions that they got. How will you insure the second amendment is protected? You just heard Secretary Clinton’s answer. Does she persuade you that, while you may differ on regulation, that she supports a second amendment right to bear arms?
Trump: The DC v. Heller decision was very strongly and she was extremely angry about it. I watched. She was very, very angry when upheld. And Justice Scalia was so involved, and it was a well crafted decision, but Hillary was extremely upset, extremely angry, and people that believe in the second amendment and believe in it very strongly were very upset with what she had to say.
Wallace: Let me bring in Secretary Clinton. Were you extremely upset?
Clinton: Well, I was upset because, unfortunately, dozens of toddlers injure themselves, even kill people with guns because, unfortunately, not everyone who has loaded guns in their homes takes appropriate precautions.
But there’s no doubt that I respect the second amendment, that I also believe there’s an individual right to bear arms. That is not in conflict with sensible, common-sense regulation. And you know, look, I understand that Donald’s been strongly supported by the NRA, the gun lobby’s on his side, they’re running millions of dollars of ads against me. And I regret that because what I would like to see is for people to come together and say, of course, we’re going to protect and defend the second amendment, but we’re going to do it in a way that tries to save some of these 33,000 lives that we lose every year.
Wallace: Let me bring Mr. Trump back into that. Because, in fact, you oppose any limits on assault weapons. Any limits on magazines, you support a national right to carry law. Why, sir?
Trump: Let me just tell you before we go any further, in Chicago, which has the toughest gun laws in the United States, probably you could say by far they have more gun violence than any other city. So we have the toughest laws and you have tremendous gun violence.
I am a very strong supporter of the second amendment. And I don’t know if Hillary was saying it in a sarcastic manner but I’m very proud to have the endorsement of the NRA. It’s the earliest endorsement they’ve ever given to anybody who ran for president. I’m very honored by all of that.
We are going to appoint justices. This is the best way to help the second amendment. We’re going to appoint justices that will feel very seriously about the second amendment. That will not do damage to the second amendment.