What a difference a few years—and Michael Bloomberg’s millions—can make.
In April 2008, Hillary Clinton was battling Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. A mailing from her campaign that month questioned then-Sen. Obama’s professed support for the Second Amendment. “Where does Barack Obama really stand on guns?” it asked. “Depends on who Barack Obama is talking to,” the flyer jabbed, providing examples of Obama’s two-faced approach to the issue.
At a campaign stop in Indiana that same month, Clinton criticized Obama’s condescending reference to Americans who “cling” to their guns. She told the crowd her grandfather taught her to shoot as a little girl and continued, “People enjoy hunting and shooting because it’s an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter.” Facing predictable backlash, Clinton’s campaign later insisted that “of course” she doesn’t support mass gun confiscation.
Fast forward to Oct. 13, 2015, when Clinton re-energized her embattled bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination during the first candidate debate. Some say the showstopper came when host Anderson Cooper asked the panel of hopefuls, “Which enemy are you most proud of?” For her part, Clinton invoked the NRA and—to the guffaws of the partisan crowd—“the Iranians.” This was an inside joke, referencing her earlier comparison of the NRA to Iranians and communists because of our unwillingness to compromise.
Considering the Obama administration’s record of caving to the Iranians and communist China, we could consider her remarks a backhanded compliment. Nevertheless, her open embrace of gun control is a notable gambit from America’s most calculating politician.
How far is Clinton willing to push this theme? The answer to that question came days later, during an Oct. 16 “town hall” meeting in New Hampshire. An audience member mentioned how Australia had managed to “take away tens of thousands, millions of handguns. And in one year, they were all gone.” As Hillary nodded approvingly, the man asked, “Can we do that? If we can’t, why can’t we?”
As a graduate of a Yale Law School and former senior official in the U.S. government, Clinton knew the correct answer to the question. We cannot do that because this is the United States. Unlike Australians, the American people have a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms. Erasing any doubt, the U.S. Supreme Court has twice confirmed that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to own handguns.
But Clinton instead gave the wrong—and shockingly honest—answer to the question, praising the Australian paradigm. “[B]y offering to buy back those guns,” she said, “they were able to curtail the supply and set a different standard for gun purchases in the future.” She then said such a program would be “worth considering” for this country: “I do not know enough detail to tell you how we would do it, or how it would work, but certainly your example is worth looking at.”
Perhaps the reason Clinton praised the Australian model comes from her recent remarks to a group of donors, in which she said that the Supreme Court “got it wrong” on the Second Amendment. She knows full well that if she is elected president and has the opportunity to replace just one of the justices in the Heller and McDonald majorities with an anti-gun nominee, a new Supreme Court would overturn those landmark decisions as soon as it possibly could. Without the individual right to keep and bear arms, there would then be nothing standing in the way of federal gun confiscation. A public service announcement published in Victoria ... portrayed several men in a prison shower and warned, “This is your last chance.”
Facing predictable backlash, Clinton’s campaign later insisted that “of course” she doesn’t support mass gun confiscation. She was referring to municipal gun “buy-backs” like those in America, a spokesperson told the media. “Yes, a number of cities do that, and it’s been effective,” the spokesperson stated, mixing insincerity with falsehood.
Whatever else can be said of Clinton, however, she is no fool. She was also first lady to America’s most anti-gun president during Australia’s enforced surrender of firearms between 1996 and 1997. We can safely assume she knows that, unlike the useless propaganda of the “buy-backs” in American cities, there was nothing voluntary about Australia’s program.
Rather, to paraphrase movie mobster Vito Corleone, Australian gun owners faced an offer they could not refuse. They had the “choice” to accept reimbursement and relinquish guns they had previously been forced to register, or they could risk forcible confiscation of their property and imprisonment.
Australia’s national program followed an earlier mandate that had occurred in its state of Victoria. A public service announcement published in Victoria could not have been clearer about the consequences of non-compliance. It mockingly portrayed several men in a prison shower and warned, “This is your last chance.” Violators, the ad stated, faced “severe penalties that could include humiliating public arrest, a criminal conviction” and “up to 12 months in prison.”
Like that shocking ad, Clinton’s comments were unmistakably clear. Given the chance, she would be eager to declare your legally obtained firearms contraband and force you to turn them in, perhaps for a pittance that would come out of your own taxes, anyway.
And it’s not just Clinton. In early October, Obama himself mentioned Australia and the United Kingdom (which also had an enforced gun surrender program) as modeling the correct approach. They “have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings,” the president lectured. They prove “there are ways to prevent it.” What he didn’t mention was “the way” Australia and the U.K. were forcing people to disarm.
Then, in a spectacle that even a gun control activist called “surreal,” the other Democratic contenders competed with Clinton in their October debate over who could be the most anti-gun. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley likewise claimed NRA as an “enemy” and bragged about the Draconian gun control bill he signed into law in 2013, which banned popular semi-automatic firearms and created a burdensome and expensive handgun licensing requirement. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) touted his “D-minus” NRA grade and shrunk from prior pro-gun votes, blaming them on “rural” constituents. Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee also embraced his NRA “F” rating and said he’d tell the NRA, “We’ve got to change this,” meaning enact more gun control.
Indeed, only Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia, acknowledged what he called the “fundamental issue” of “people who want to defend themselves and their families from violence.” Of course, he was also the only candidate who ever had to fight for his life against someone (a North Vietnamese soldier) determined to kill him, a fact he alluded to in answering Cooper’s “enemy” question. So what really explains the candidates’ unapologetic embrace of gun control? The smart money is on … money.
Webb notably quit the Democrat primary soon after the debate, stating he couldn’t see himself endorsing any of the remaining candidates.
Later, that gun control activist gushed that America had reached a “tipping point” and that “change is in the air.” He cited what he claimed is “overwhelming public support for change,” exemplified by support for gun control by members of the political class and the pop culture elite.
Typical for the gun control lobby, however, they cherry-picked examples to support their wishful conclusion. The same week they made those claims, a majority of respondents to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll indicated that Democrats are “outside the mainstream” on firearm issues. The poll also showed that 71 percent of respondents were only “slightly” or “not really worried at all” about themselves or their loved ones being victimized by “gun violence.” Gallup polls also show the NRA consistently enjoying majority support.
So what really explains the candidates’ unapologetic embrace of gun control? The smart money is on … money. Bloomberg, George Soros, and any number of billionaires and Hollywood moguls funding their campaigns demand gun prohibition. And in politics, as in other areas of life, you often get what you pay for (or at least you get lip service to it).
Moreover, for Obama and Clinton, the headlines gained by “taking on the NRA” provide a welcome reprieve from more embarrassing headlines about things they can’t brag about to fundraisers. Obama, in any event, won’t face the electorate again, and Clinton is perhaps banking on them to forget by next November.
The tactic may also be a ham-handed attempt to follow NRA’s lead by trying to generate intensity around a single issue. What these politicians don’t realize, however, is that NRA supporters don’t need to be convinced of the Second Amendment’s importance. That’s why they support the NRA in the first place.
Whatever its motivation, the new embrace of gun control during this primary season illustrates the stakes in the coming election. While Hillary Clinton might try to retreat from those extreme positions, we will not forget—and we will not forgive.