Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported GOP presumptive nominee “Donald Trump delivered one of his sharpest attacks to date against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, telling a group of thousands of gun enthusiasts Friday that she would “abolish” the Second Amendment and pack the Supreme Court with antigun justices.”
The New York Times reports the official response that “Clinton’s campaign called Trump’s gun policies ‘radical and dangerous.’ Senior policy adviser Maya Harris said Clinton believes “there are common-sense steps we can take at the federal level to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while respecting the Second Amendment.”
The official lines are drawn with this divisive election subject. As with many Second Amendment discussions, opponents and proponents talk past each other. An exchange occurring on the May 21st CNN’s Don Lemon Show demonstrates this disconnect.
“I want to talk about the 2nd Amendment,” Lemon began. “Because Donald Trump continues to say that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the 2nd Amendment. That is false. That is false by every fact-checker, by the campaign, by her, by everyone who is listening but Donald Trump. Why does he continue to say that? ”
Because it’s true, ” Miller began, before pausing as the entire panel, including Lemon, began to laugh uproariously.
Miller asserted that Clinton wants to overturn the Supreme Court’s DC v Heller decision that shot down a law making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns, but still allowed for ownership of other types of weapons.
According to Miller, overturning the decision would mean “the 2nd Amendment would no longer exist.”
Guest Sally Kohn pushed back at Miller, pointing out that before the Heller decision, there had always been restrictions on guns. She also noted that even Constitutional originalist Antonin Scalia agreed that there should be some restrictions on guns.
It is important to agree on the question for a constructive discussion and Mr. Lemon’s CNN segment did not, in my opinion, get to first base with this task. Little additional understanding was achieved regarding why Mrs. Clinton’s policies would “abolish” the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or, on the other hand, that they would not.
Instead, Mr. Miller appeared to be set up as a shill and then laughed at when he offered an explanation. In my view, Mr. Lemon did not chair his panel by digging down to establish an understanding of both the Trump and Clinton perspectives. Instead, in my opinion, he perpetrated an indignity; Something out of character for a commentator who values his balance and objectivity.
The Heller decision is based upon the District of Columbia’s refusal to register and permit DC special policeman Mr. Heller from keeping a firearm in his home for personal protection. The DC law also required firearms to be unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock and Mr. Heller felt such a requirement eliminated the effectiveness of the firearm in his home for personal protection.
The majority U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case was specific, “Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.”
Recent media releases address Mrs. Clinton’s reservation about the Heller decision. Sahil Kapur reports in the May 20, 2016 edition of Bloomberg Politics that “(Hillary) Clinton believes Heller was wrongly decided in that cities and states should have the power to craft common sense laws to keep their residents safe, like safe storage laws to prevent toddlers from accessing guns,” Maya Harris, a policy adviser to Clinton, said in an e-mailed statement. “In overturning Washington D.C.’s safe storage law, Clinton worries that Heller may open the door to overturning thoughtful, common sense safety measures in the future.”
When I read these releases, I understand that Mrs. Clinton wants to change or reverse Heller which likely would effectively “abolish” the current Second Amendment guarantees as they are understood by many Americans. This would include, I am sure, the NRA members Mr. Trump was addressing in Louisville on May 20th.
I am frustrated by language used by the Clinton Campaign referring to Heller as the “Washington DC Safe Storage Law”. Safe storage was an aspect of the regulation and considered by the Supreme Court, but not the central theme of the decision. In my gut, I feel it creates an unfortunate diversion from the truth as they say, a circumlocution. It is lawyerly but not presidential. The approach of Mrs. Clinton’s Campaign statement appears to be elusive and “catch me if you can”.
In this manner, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign statement is not helpful. The spokesperson alludes to the gun lock provision of the decision and DC regulation but does not address in her statement that Washington DC for practical purposes, did not allow citizens to possess firearms. The major issue before the American voters is the ability of United States governments to prohibit the ownership and possession of firearms to eligible individuals for lawful purposes, including self defense. The code-key for this is “the Second Amendment”.
It is this perceived ambiguity and misdirection on her campaign’s part that adds significant fuel-to-the-fire. Either Mrs. Clinton supports the right of gun ownership for personal protection as specified in Heller or she does not. Mrs. Clinton has an obligation to clarify this.
She is a highly capable attorney, with excellent English language expression skills and for many folks that are making a decision regarding her candidacy, she should be exact about her intentions as to whether she will support abolishing the right of firearm ownership in the home for personal protection or she will not – either directly or indirectly.
Many feel that she is capable of reassuring us by implying she supports the Second Amendment (in its Heller interpretation), but when she is expected to act on the Heller guarantee as an American President, she will fail in her support and, in fact, takes actions that undermine this right of self-defense. Support and opposition are very subtle matters and often skillful politicians have developed a skill-set to obfuscate where they stand and what their “real” agenda may be. This likely is an appropriate fear.
The laughter of Don Lemon’s panel appeared to me defensive. The discussion did little to advance an accurate understanding of their candidate’s position, so voters who support the Second Amendment as interpreted by Heller, can make an informed decision. I am working to have an open mind on this subject, and as a former Obama voter, want to assure my vote is cast correctly in this very important election.
Explanation of facts from the decision:
The facts for the Heller case are recounted in the decision as “District of Columbia law bans handgun possession by making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns; provides separately that no person may carry an unlicensed handgun, but authorizes the police chief to issue 1-year licenses; and requires residents to keep lawfully owned firearms unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device. Respondent Heller, a D. C. special policeman, applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home, but the District refused. He filed this suit seeking, on Second Amendment grounds, to enjoin the city from enforcing the bar on handgun registration, the licensing requirement insofar as it prohibits carrying an unlicensed firearm in the home, and the trigger-lock requirement insofar as it prohibits the use of functional firearms in the home. The District Court dismissed the suit, but the D. C. Circuit reversed, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms and that the city’s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right.”