Over the last several decades, leading Democratic presidential candidates have consistently avoided major campaign fights over gun violence. The party’s nominees, cycle after cycle, have found there’s no real upside to taking on the NRA and its allies, and the risk of alienating voters in some swing states is simply too great.
But Hillary Clinton is taking a very different path. This started in earnest a few months ago, but the former Secretary of State is staying on the offensive in ways recent Democratic frontrunners have not. MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reported today:
While campaigning in New Hampshire Monday, Clinton rolled out a new gun control proposal that includes using executive action to close the so-called gun show loophole and making it easier for people to sue gun makers. Clinton contrasted her stance with that of Republicans, paying special attention to presidential candidates Bush and Donald Trump.“On the Republican side, Mr. Trump was asked about it and said something like ‘you know, things like that happen in the world,’” she said. “Governor Bush said ‘yeah, stuff happens.’ No. That’s an admission of defeat and surrender to a problem that is killing 33,000 Americans.”
This touches on an important political point. Putting aside whether or not one considers Friday’s “stuff happens” flap important, the broader point remains the same: Trump and Bush are only too eager to express ambitious, arguably unrealistic goals about a range of issues – economic growth, job creation, national security, veterans’ care – but when the questions turn to gun deaths, the leading Republican candidates’ boldness quickly disappears. Trump,. in particular, quickly transitions from, “I can solve any problem” to “we’ll just have to accept thousands of gun deaths because there’s nothing to be done.”
But this isn’t just about election positioning against GOP candidates. Clinton has a credible policy agenda on curtailing gun violence that warrants its own attention.
Vox had a good summary:
Clinton would push an executive branch rule redefining the way the law looks at people who sell lots of guns but don’t do it out of a brick-and-mortar store, an aide said. Under the rule, people who try to sell a “significant number of guns” would be deemed to be “in the business” of selling firearms. That would require many private sellers to become licensed dealers, which would make them responsible for conducting background checks, keeping records of sales, and making records available to law enforcement officers upon request.Clinton would also back legislation closing the “Charleston loophole,” which federal officials say allowed the man accused of killing nine people in a South Carolina church earlier this year to obtain a gun…. Clinton would support two other legislative efforts: to repeal the gun industry’s exemption from lawsuits against manufacturers … and to prevent stalkers and those convicted of abusing people they were dating from obtaining guns.
The repeal of the industry’s lawsuit exemption carries some additional political weight because Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose record is very progressive on nearly every issue except guns, voted in support of the proposal.