For all the careful staging and coaching politicians use to maintain their public images, sometimes they still slip up and say what they really think. Who can forget President Obama’s infamous remark to wealthy donors in San Francisco that rural Americans who feel abandoned by the economy “get bitter and they cling to guns or religion”?
Even Hillary Clinton, his then primary opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, feigned outrage. “I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America,” Clinton said on the campaign trail. “Senator Obama’s remarks are elitist and out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans, certainly not the Americans that I know. ...”
Her remarks, however insincere, were at least calculated for wide appeal.
Today, most observers agree that Clinton still has her eyes on the White House for 2016. Yet her more recent statements on guns and their advocates reveal a much different outlook.
Speaking at a televised “town hall” meeting in June, Clinton responded at length to a question about the effectiveness of so-called “assault weapon” and “high-capacity” magazine bans. Her response told us perhaps more than she intended about her true opinion of the Second Amendment and its supporters.
Clinton endorsed these bans and expressed disappointment over the failure of so-called “universal” background check legislation following the terrible Sandy Hook tragedy (legislation Mark Glaze, Michael Bloomberg’s former chief gun control adviser, recently admitted would not have stopped that or similar crimes). What she said next, however, truly revealed the sort of governance Americans could expect from a President Hillary Clinton.
Clinton insisted the nation needed a more “thoughtful conversation” about gun control and continued, “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.”
In the days following that remark, a number of commentators rightly emphasized the irony of America’s former secretary of state—one whose tenure was marked by controversies over real terrorists—using that term to describe ordinary Americans.
Yet the true significance of her remarks was even more fundamental and chilling.
Clinton didn’t just condemn the ownership and use of “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines. Instead, she claimed that what “terrorizes” America is a “viewpoint” that diverges from hers. This “minority” viewpoint is not just ill-advised or misinformed, in her estimation. Rather, it “cannot” be tolerated at all. This is the Orwellian realm of “thoughtcrime,” where simple beliefs or opinions are deemed as unacceptable and blameworthy as criminal behavior itself.
Clinton’s outlook mirrors that of other gun-banning extremists. Their scorn targets not just, or even primarily, behavior. Instead, they seem more determined to stamp out pro-gun thoughts than violent crimes committed with guns.
This is why clothing depicting an NRA logo or firearm will get a child suspended from school. This is why a Connecticut high school student researching gun control for a school debate discovered he could access anti-gun websites on the school’s computers, while those of the NRA and other pro-gun groups were blocked as “hate speech.” This is why Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., railed that anybody who supported the right to own the ordinary firearms Cuomo’s safe Act deemed illegal had “no place in the state of New York.” This is why a communications professor at a Connecticut college reported a student to the police for endorsing campus carry during an assignment to discuss a “relevant issue in the media.”
Now, Hillary Clinton, presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, is telling pro-gun Americans that not only are they not entitled to their rights, they’re not entitled to their thoughts about their rights.
While we should all be concerned, we need not be afraid. Clinton may want to control our thoughts, but she doesn’t control our votes. This November—and beyond—we must elect candidates who listen to our viewpoints, not just condemn them, and turn those viewpoints into policy.