Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton refused on Sunday to acknowledge that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual right to keep and bear arms.
“Do you believe that an individual’s right to bear arms is a constitutional right, that it’s not linked to service in a militia?” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked on a recent episode of This Week.
“I think that for most of our history, there was a nuanced reading of the Second Amendment until the decision by the late Justice Scalia, and there was no argument until then that localities and states and the federal government had a right, as we do with every amendment, to impose reasonable regulations,” Clinton responded. “So I believe we can have common-sense gun safety measures consistent with the Second Amendment.”
Clinton is referencing a Supreme Court case known as District of Columbia v. Heller. In this 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms that is not connected to service in a militia or other military organization.
Clinton has repeatedly criticized the Heller decision, even going to far as to say the Supreme Court was “wrong” on the Second Amendment. She failed to articulate her position so clearly in this interview, perhaps in an effort to move towards the center in preparation for the upcoming general election.
Instead, she emphasized that the Second Amendment leaves room for the regulation of firearms, attempting to move the interview back to her gun control platform. I’ve discussed her platform in detail here, but suffice it to say that the majority of her proposals are either duplicative (the laws she proposes already exist) or simply ignorant (the gun industry does not enjoy special legal protection, for example).
But Stephanopoulos wasn’t going to let her off the hook so easily. He repeated his question, to which she responded with a repetition of her point about “reasonable regulations”: “If it is a constitutional right, then it, like every other constitutional right, is subject to reasonable regulations, and what people have done with that decision is to take it as far as they possibly can and reject what has been our history from the very beginning of the republic, where some of the earliest laws that were passed were about firearms.”
Clinton’s line of reasoning is unclear. As Stephanopoulos himself acknowledged, the Court in Heller maintained that the Second Amendment leaves room for the regulation of firearms. Nothing Clinton says disagrees with the Heller decision because the Court itself affirmed the right of state and local governments to regulate firearms.
Clinton seems to be disagreeing only with the constitutional right for an individual to own and carry a firearm, a troubling thought as the country moves closer to the general election in which Clinton has thus far been the favorite to win.