Despite a litany of rebukes from news outlets and organizations that normally provide her with a steady stream of fawning coverage, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton refuses to abandon her misleading statements blaming Vermont’s gun laws for New York’s crime problems. Moreover, her continued defense of the deceptive talking point has provided a disturbing glimpse into the depths of her distorted views on firearms.
During the April 14 Democratic debate in Brooklyn, New York, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer pressed Clinton about her attacks on Vermont. Blitzer asked Clinton, “why did you put out that statement blaming Vermont and its gun policy for some of the death of -- by guns in New York?” In part of her response, Clinton stated, “Well, the facts are that most of the guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from out of state.”
“the guns that end up committing crimes”
First, Clinton’s misleading claim relies on the use of ATF firearms trace data. The fact that a firearm was traced does not mean it was used in a crime. The following disclaimer accompanies publications of ATF trace data to make this fact clear:
Firearm traces are designed to assist law enforcement authorities in conducting investigations by tracking the sale and possession of specific firearms. Law enforcement agencies may request firearms traces for any reason, and those reasons are not necessarily reported to the federal government. Not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime. Firearms selected for tracing are not chosen for purposes of determining which types, makes or models of firearms are used for illicit purposes. The firearms selected do not constitute a random sample and should not be considered representative of the larger universe of all firearms used by criminals, or any subset of that universe. Firearms are normally traced to the first retail seller, and sources reported for firearms traced do not necessarily represent the sources or methods by which firearms in general are acquired for use in crime.
The more disturbing issue is that Clinton’s statement suggests that she believes firearms are somehow responsible for committing crimes, rather than the individuals who misuse firearms. Gun rights supporters have long noted that gun control activists have misplaced their focus on the tool used by a criminal perpetrator rather than the perpetrator themselves. The simple, yet undeniable, pro-gun response to these gun controllers is the oft-repeated “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
However, Clinton’s recent comments stand out as maybe the most vivid illustration of the gun control movement’s perverse logic. While many gun control supporters may casually utter some version of “guns kill people,” few would anthropomorphize firearms to the extent that they would claim guns commit crimes.
In criminal law, in order to be convicted of a crime such as murder or armed robbery, the prosecution must prove that the perpetrator had the necessary guilty mindset, or mens rea, as an element of the offense. When Clinton contends that guns commit crimes, she is imparting a morally blameworthy mindset onto a piece of steel. Perhaps Clinton would allow prosecutors to charge the individual misusing the firearm as an accomplice.