Hillary Clinton’s gun control proposals are, quite frankly, nauseating. Slogging through the nine ways Hillary plans to stop guns from killing people is tough work for anyone who values the Second Amendment and possesses even a basic understanding of U.S. gun law. I don’t advise it for anyone with a weak stomach.
Her reason for overhauling the current gun control system is simple: according to her webpage, “About 33,000 Americans are killed by guns each year.” What she means, of course, is, People kill 33,000 other people or, more likely, themselves with guns each year (about two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides). Not even Hillary believes guns by themselves are responsible for American deaths, right?
She might. Seven of her nine proposals target guns themselves rather than the criminals who actually pull the trigger and even those target people who might pull the trigger in the future, but haven’t yet.
So what are Hillary’s proposals? What would it take to turn them into law? And would they do anything to bring down the number of gun deaths in the United States?
I’ve published the nuts and bolts of each proposal below, under which you’ll find my analysis. But be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart.
Federal Background Check Legislation
- Comprehensive federal background check legislation. Background checks reduce gun trafficking, reduce the lethality of domestic violence, and reduce unlawful gun transfers to dangerous individuals. It is reprehensible that bipartisan legislation supporting background checks failed in Congress after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But Hillary is not giving up—she will continue to fight for legislation to build on the Brady Bill’s success.
Anyone who buys a gun from a firearms dealer has to pass a background check. Every person. Every time. It’s false to imply that Congress failed to support background check legislation, and she’s hoping her supporters don’t know enough about gun law to call her out. When Hillary says, “comprehensive federal background check legislation,” what she means is “universal background check legislation.” This would require all private firearm transfers to be done through a licensed dealer who can run a background check. So if you want to give a gun to your son or sell your shotgun to a buddy, you’d have to make a trip to an FFL to make it legal.
In practice, this legislation could (and likely would) create a registry of all guns in the United States. Such a registry, of course, would only tell the feds which law-abiding citizens owned which firearms (since criminals don’t tend to get their guns legally), but that’s not important to the anti-gun crowd. Gun confiscation might not be politically viable now, but universal background checks could give future federal officials a powerful tool to enact total, nationwide gun confiscation. Always remember: the anti-gunners play the long game. Their goal is to put the tools in place today, so they can act as soon as they achieve a majority in Congress.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: This proposal would require legislation from Congress.
- Closing the ‘Charleston Loophole.’Hillary will push Congress to close the loophole that allows a gun sale to proceed without a completed background check if that check has not been completed within three days. This loophole allowed the alleged Charleston shooter to purchase a gun even though he had a criminal record.
This is the first of three “loopholes” Hillary wants to “close.” Anyone unfamiliar with basic gun law might conclude that current gun policy is riddled with ways for criminals to get around the law. Not that criminals follow the law anyway, but I repeat myself.
This particular “loophole” allows an FFL to release a gun to a customer after three days if the FBI has not given a final determination on the customer’s background check. In the case of the Charleston shooter, a clerical error kept the FBI from locating his criminal record within the three-day window. The law ensures a customer’s gun purchase isn’t held up by federal officials indefinitely, which could, in effect, revoke his or her Second Amendment rights without due process. Extending the window by a few days might be a reasonable solution, but labeling the three-day time period a “loophole” is inaccurate—a felon who attempts to purchase a gun cannot know ahead of time whether or not their background check will be delayed. It is impossible, therefore, for that person to intentionally take advantage of the “loophole” Hillary proposes to close.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: This proposal would require legislation from Congress, as it requires an amendment to the Brady Bill. That being said, these Democratic senators from Connecticut believe President Obama could close the “loophole” through executive action.
Gun Show, Internet “Loophole”
- Tightening the gun show and Internet sales loophole if Congress won’t. If Congress refuses to act, Hillary will take administrative action to require that any person attempting to sell a significant number of guns abide by the same commonsense rules that apply to gun stores—including requiring background checks on gun sales.
The myths of the internet and gun show loopholes have been refuted by the pro-gun community ad nauseum. You can read the rebuttals here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. There are more, but you get the point.
What Hillary is proposing already exists under federal law, which requires anyone in the business of selling guns (i.e., someone who sells a “significant number of guns”) to perform a background check every time they sell a gun no matter where they sell it. If they sell a gun online, they’re required to send that gun to another Federal Firearm Licensee of their customer’s choosing. That FFL must conduct a background check before releasing the firearm to the customer.
Hillary’s policy wonks can get away with including such a redundant platform goal because Hillary’s supporters (and probably the policy wonks themselves) don’t know anything about gun law (notice a pattern here?). Still, considering the number of articles debunking the gun show loophole myth, they don’t have much excuse.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: Unless Hillary plans to change the definition of who must obtain an FFL, she can’t enact this proposal because it already exists.
Ending Gun Industry “Immunity”
- Repeal the gun industry’s unique immunity protection. Hillary believes the gun industry must be held accountable for violence perpetrated with their guns. Hillary will lead the charge to repeal the so-called “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” a dangerous law that prevents victims of gun violence from holding negligent manufacturers and dealers accountable for violence perpetrated with their guns.
This is probably the most egregious set of lies on the whole list.
In reality, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act expressly prohibits firearms dealers from selling a firearm “when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.”
The firearms industry does not have special immunity. They’re liable for negligence just like the car industry, the food industry, and every other economic sector, and, as this gun store owner recently proved, they’re more than capable of shouldering this responsibility.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: This proposal would require legislation from Congress.
Unscrupulous Gun Dealers
- Revoke the licenses of bad-actor dealers. Hillary believes we must do more to crack down on gun stores that flood our communities with illegal guns. As president, she will provide funding to increase inspections and aggressively enforce current law by revoking the licenses of dealers that knowingly supply straw purchasers and traffickers.
The idea that gun stores are “flooding our communities with illegal guns” is mere hyperbole. As ATF agent Charles Mulham told Forbes in 2014, “Sometimes an employee might steal guns or something, but gun store owners are rarely the problem.”
If Hillary wants to enforce existing law, fine. But if the anti-gunner track record is any indication, aggressive enforcement looks more like a denial of civil liberty than a pursuit of justice. In “Operation Choke Point,” for example, federal officials threatened banks with inspections and audits if they approved loans to gun stores. There is nothing wrong, in theory, with enforcing the law. But if Hillary’s tactics are anything like her predecessor’s, legal gun stores could face costly, time-consuming, and unreasonable legal actions.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: As head of the executive branch, Hillary could accomplish this proposal without an act of Congress.
Target Domestic Abusers
- Support legislation to stop domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns. Although federal law generally prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing guns, this protection does not apply to people in dating relationships or convicted stalkers. Hillary will fight for legislation to prohibit all of these domestic abusers and stalkers from buying guns.
The domestic abuse protection does, in fact, apply to people in dating relationships. Stephen Voisine, for example, was charged in 2011 with unlawful possession of a firearm after he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. What Hillary doesn’t like is that the Lautenberg Amendment—the federal law that prohibits domestic abusers from owning guns—doesn’t specifically mention dating relationships. It does, however, mention cohabiting persons and anyone “similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim,” categories broad enough to apply to most serious relationships.
As for stalking,I’ll let our friends at the NRA explain the absurdity of that idea. As they outline in their recent letter to lawmakers, “‘Stalking’ offenses do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior. Under federal law, for example, stalking includes ‘a course of conduct’ that never involves any personal contact whatsoever, occurs wholly through the mail, online media, or telephone service, is undertaken with the intent to ‘harass’ and would be reasonably expected to cause (even if it doesn’t succeed in causing) ‘substantial emotional distress’ to another person.”
None of this, of course, even addresses whether or not individuals convicted of a misdemeanor deserve a lifetime denial of their constitutional rights. Perhaps some do, but that debate warrants more space than this venue allows.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: This proposal would require legislation from Congress, which is already in the works.
Make Straw Purchasing a Federal Crime
- Make straw purchasing a federal crime.When an individual with a clean record buys a gun with the intention of giving it to a violent felon—only so that felon can avoid a background check—it should be a crime. Hillary will fight to make so-called ‘straw purchasing’ a federal crime.
Like Hillary’s plan to close the “gun show loophole,” this proposal already exists under federal law. Purchasing a gun for a prohibited person is illegal—both on the state and federal level. In 2014, furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled to allow “strict enforcement” of the federal ban on gun straw purchasers.
So, thus far, two of Clinton’s nine gun policy proposals already exist. It’s a wonder she can claim to fight gun violence when she clearly doesn’t understand the basics of existing gun law.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: Hillary can’t enact this proposal because it’s already a federal law.
Close Mental Health “Loophole”
- Close loopholes that let persons suffering from severe mental illness purchase and possess guns. Hillary will fight to improve existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should finalize its rulemaking to close loopholes in our laws and clarify that people involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment, such as the Virginia Tech shooter, are prohibited from buying guns.
More loopholes. Hillary isn’t clear to which “loophole” she’s referring. It might be this one, supposedly closed by President Obama earlier this year, but it’s hard to say.
In any case, gun control efforts aimed at those with mental illnesses usually receive broad support, but their efficacy isn’t backed up by the facts. While the perceived link between mental illness and gun violence is well-established, this study found that less than 5 percent of gun-related killings in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010 were carried out by people found to have a mental illness.
In addition, the federal government’s history of properly enforcing the mental illness rule is far from spotless. Some Social Security recipients and military veterans have had their Second Amendment rights revoked merely because they were deemed incapable of managing their finances. Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who has studied how veterans with health problems manage their money, explained why this practice doesn’t hold water: “Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” he said. “They are very different determinations.”
FINAL ASSESSMENT: Hillary could likely accomplish this proposal without Congress.
Reinstate “Assault Weapons Ban”
- Keep military-style weapons off our streets. Military-style assault weapons do not belong on our streets. They are a danger to law enforcement and to our communities. Hillary will work to keep assault weapons off our streets and supports reinstating the assault weapons ban.
This is a popular proposal in the anti-gun community as well. High-profile mass shootings like the one in San Bernardino scare those who trust their personal protection entirely to law enforcement or federal authorities. Anyone not familiar with criminal gun usage or the history of gun law may conclude, like Hillary, that “assault weapons do not belong on our streets.” But facts have a way of describing reality, and lawmakers have a responsibility to craft law that corresponds with fact.
For example, of the 12,664 homicides committed in the United States in 2011, 323 were perpetrated with a rifle (any kind of rifle, not specifically AR-15s or AK-47s). That’s less than 2.5 percent of all murders—a lower percentage than knives, blunt objects, and fists. This trend holds true for 2007-2010 as well. For Hillary to imply that “assault weapons” pose a grave danger to our law enforcement and communities is, again, mere hyperbole. They pose nothing of the kind.
History confirms this. The United States banned assault weapons in 1994 under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Anti-gunners couldn’t get enough support to renew the law, and Congress allowed it to expire in 2004. That year the University of Pennsylvania released a study that summarizes the ban’s effectiveness: “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”
FINAL ASSESSMENT: This proposal would require an act of Congress.
Hillary Clinton’s nine gun control proposals do nothing except reveal her ignorance of gun law, gun history, gun ownership, gun usage, and, most importantly, gun owners. Law-abiding citizens don’t perpetuate gun crime. Guns don’t perpetuate gun crime. If Hillary and the larger anti-gun community wants to “stop guns from killing people,” they should focus on the people who actually pull the trigger.
About the Author: Jordan Michaels is a new convert to the gun world. A Canadian immigrant to the United States, he recently became an American citizen and is happily enjoying his newly-acquired Second Amendment freedoms. He’s a communications professional, a political junkie, and an avid basketball fan.