QuickTake Q&A: Clinton Versus Trump on Guns and Second AmendmentBy
Another U.S. election, another impassioned debate about gun ownership. Americans own more guns than anybody else on earth, even adjusted for population. Outbreaks of gun-related crimes inspire some Americans to seek limits on firearm ownership and others to cherish the right to have a gun for self-defense. The National Rifle Association, the leading pro-gun group, has been on a decades-long winning streak convincing courts and lawmakers to loosen gun restrictions and to prevent the passage of new ones. The constitutional right of Americans to bear arms has become a flash point in the presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
1. What’s the Second Amendment?
The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1791, are collectively known as the Bill of Rights and were intended to address concerns that the new nation needed more explicit guarantees of personal freedoms. The Second Amendment reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." What precisely that right includes is still debated, 225 years later. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the amendment protects the gun rights of individuals, not just militias.
2. Has Clinton really proposed abolishing it?
No. Trump’s repeated claim that Clinton "wants to abolish the Second Amendment" has been shot down multiple times by Politifact.com and FactCheck.org, and by Clinton herself. The view that Clinton favors repealing the Second Amendment gained traction when one of her policy advisers, Maya Harris, told Bloomberg Politics that the candidate believes that the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a Washington, D.C., ban on handguns was “wrongly decided” and would result in further gun safety measures being overturned.
3. What does Clinton propose on guns?
She advocates making more gun purchases -- those at gun shows and on the Internet, for instance -- subject to background checks through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, though that system is hardly foolproof. She would insist that all gun buyers pass a background check even if that delays their purchase beyond three business days, the current time limit. Her campaign website also pledges to "work to keep military-style weapons off our streets," which could mean another semi-automatic firearms ban like the much-criticized one implemented under her husband from 1994 to 2004.
4. What does Trump propose on guns?
Trump is running as a Second Amendment absolutist, despite a more nuanced history on the issue of gun rights. He says he would support mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with guns and fixing "our broken mental health system," although he hasn’t said how. He says a gun owner with a state license to carry a concealed weapon should be able to do so in any of the 50 states, and that members of the military should be allowed to be armed while at recruiting centers.
The Reference Shelf
- A Bloomberg Businessweek story on why Clinton can’t win by going after the NRA.
- A QuickTake explainer on guns in America.
- A Bloomberg View editorial on guns and the U.S. Constitution.
- The Clinton campaign on guns.
- The Trump campaign on guns.