During Saturday’s debate between the Democratic Party’s three candidates for president, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley all endorsed a ban on “assault weapons.” Such a ban, as most recently introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would prohibit the manufacture and sale of all semi-automatic shotguns, all detachable-magazine, semi-automatic rifles, various other categories of semi-automatic firearms, and all ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, regardless of the firearm for which they are designed. Contrary to what gun control supporters frequently claim, it would not merely “reinstate” the much weaker, earlier ban, which expired in 2004.
The Democrats’ comments came in response to a question from one of the debate’s moderators, veteran reporter Martha Raddatz. Raddatz asked, “Secretary Clinton, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, you all emphasized gun control. But our latest poll shows that more Americans believe arming people, not stricter gun laws, is the best defense against terrorism. Are they wrong?”
Clinton responded, in effect, that she does think most Americans are wrong. “Arming more people . . . is not the appropriate response to terrorism,” she said. When the same question was put to Sanders, he said, “we have got to see that weapons designed by the military to kill people are not in the hands of civilians” and “I don’t think it’s a great idea that we sell automatic weapons in this country that are used by the military to kill people very rapidly.”
Sanders was confused, if not deceptive, about the firearms in question, of course. The semi-automatic firearms that gun control supporters want banned as “assault weapons” aren’t “automatic,” they haven’t been “designed by the military,” and they aren’t used by the military.
Not to be outdone by Sanders on banning guns, Clinton added, “I have been against assault weapons.” It was one of the rare occasions on which Clinton has told the truth, as banning “assault weapons” is indeed part of her new, multi-faceted gun control plan.
The debate’s moderators were about to move to another topic, but O’Malley demanded that he be allowed to weigh in on gun control too. Introducing a new hyperbolic term to gun control supporters’ vocabulary, O’Malley bragged that as governor of Maryland, he was the only one of the three candidates who had enacted a law banning “combat assault weapons.”
Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley all advocated what they called “gun safety” legislation, meaning not only an “assault weapon” ban, but also a ban on all private sales of firearms, regardless of where they occur, and legislation to allow gun control supporters to file lawsuits designed to bankrupt firearm manufacturers and dealers, even if they have complied with federal, state and local laws one hundred percent. The Democrats’ comments were in stark contrast to those of the Republican presidential candidates in the wake of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.
CNN reported that businessman Donald Trump responded to San Bernardino as he did to the attacks in Paris, France, several weeks earlier. “[I]f the people in Paris or the people in California, if you had a couple of folks in there with guns, and that knew how to use them, and they were in that room, you wouldn’t have dead people, the dead people would be the other guys,” Trump said.
ABC News reported that Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) accused Clinton and Pres. Barack Obama of using the attack in San Bernardino as “an excuse for greater gun control,” which, he said, wouldn’t make the country safer.
Politico reported on December 3rd, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) said, “we should never rush to take away the basic liberties enshrined in our Constitution that are guaranteed to law-abiding American citizens.” Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said, “I think the left often pivots to gun laws. But the truth is states like California have very strict gun laws, as they do in Illinois, in Chicago, as they do in Washington, D.C., as they do in many other jurisdictions that have a significant amount of gun violence.”
Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) said that he preferred to “remove existing restrictive firearm ownership laws in the District of Columbia, and require the District of Columbia to issue and grant reciprocity for concealed weapons permits for both residents and non-residents.” Paul accused Democrats of “exploiting the deaths of innocent Americans to further their plans to dismantle the 2nd Amendment. . . . The victims [in San Bernardino] are just another helpful talking point to the left.”
Businesswoman Carly Fiorina argued against legislation banning gun purchases by people on the FBI’s secret “watch list,” saying, “If somebody is a suspected terrorist on a watch list, they can be indicted at any time, and once you’re indicted, you cannot own a firearm. . . . Why aren’t these people prosecuted?”
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush earlier said, “The proper response [to gun violence] is to crack down on the criminals who use guns in crimes and to improve our national instant background check system so we can prevent people with mental illnesses from purchasing firearms.”
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said that none of the Democrats’ gun control restrictions would have prevented the San Bernardino terrorist attack. “Which law?,” he asked. “If you say ‘nobody can have a gun,’ do you think that would keep a person like that from getting a gun? Of course it wouldn’t. But it would probably keep law-abiding citizens from having one.”
Sen. Lindsay Graham (S.C.) said, “If you think the shooting in California is about gun control, then you don’t understand what’s going on in the world. This is about two people who have bought into an ideology that is absolutely insane in nature and has to be combated.”
Former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson has previously explained the importance of gun ownership in defense against criminals and tyranny. And last, but not least, the New York Times reports that former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) said “I believe that responsible people carrying weapons actually reduces crime in America and saves people’s lives.”
There continue to be debates within and between the Democrat and Republican parties on a variety of issues not related to gun control. And it is still unclear who the two parties’ nominees for president will be. But even with 11 months to go until Election Day 2016, there is no question about the two, polar-opposite sides of the gun control debate on which those parties’ eventual nominees will stand.