Four ways Hillary Clinton will work to end gun ownership as president

On Sunday, Hillary Clinton just couldn’t bring herself to say on ABC’s “This Week” that Americans have an individual right to own guns.  But it didn’t stop her from denying Donald Trump’s claim that she wants to abolish the Second Amendment.  Clinton accused Trump of making “outright fabrications, accusing me of something that is absolutely untrue.”

From changing the Supreme Court to make it possible to again ban guns in the United States to making it more costly to own guns, I predict that a President Hillary Clinton will do four things to either ban guns or at least reduce gun ownership, especially for poor people:

1. Sunday, George Stephanopoulos pushed Clinton twice on whether people have a right to own guns on ABC News’ “This Week”: “But that’s not what I asked.  I said do you believe that their conclusion that an individual’s right to bear arms is a constitutional right?”  Clinton could only say: “If it is a constitutional right…”

But to anyone familiar with the Supreme Court rulings on the Second Amendment, Clinton clearly indicated that she would appoint Supreme Court Justices who will allow gun bans. 

Until 2008, Washington, D.C., had a complete handgun ban.  It was also a felony to put a bullet in the chamber of a gun.  In effect, this was a complete ban on guns. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down these laws.

Clinton told Stephanopoulos: “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 regulation.”

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Clinton went on to talk about her push for expanded background checks, but that has nothing to do with Scalia’s decision in Heller. Instead, she should explain what made D.C.’s regulations “reasonable.”  She could have told us why people should be imprisoned for five years for defending their families. 

In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent: “I can find nothing in the Second Amendment’s text, history, or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as ‘fundamental’ insofar as it seeks to protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined in this dissent.

Breyer and Ginsburg were both appointed by President Bill Clinton.  Sotomayor was Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court.  Obama’s second nominee, Elana Kagan, would clearly have voted the same way had she been on the court at the time.  Indeed, Kagan served in the Clinton administration and helped lead the President’s gun control initiatives. 

If Hillary wins in November, she will appoint Scalia’s successor and the Supreme Court will overturn the Heller decision.  Make no mistake about it, gun bans will return.

2. Stephanopoulos also asked Hillary on Sunday about her support in 1993 for a 25 percent sales tax on handguns. This is enough to add a hundred or more dollars to the price of a gun.  Clinton wouldn’t say if she still supported such a tax, but she appeared to justify the proposal by talking about the costs of gun violence.  Of course, she has never acknowledged the fact that guns are used to stop crimes 4 to 5 times more often than they are used to commit them.

3. Hillary never mentions it, but the new background checks that she keeps pushing will also make guns more costly and not make us safer.  In Washington and New York City, expanding background checks to private transfers will add at least $125 to the cost of obtaining a gun.  In New Jersey, it usually adds $100.  It is as low as $60 in Washington State.

4. On Sunday, Hillary also pushed the idea of making gun makers and sellers liable for guns which end up being used in crimes.  As her rival Bernie Sanders, of all people, has explained: “If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer.”  Even if Sanders exaggerates when he says that Hillary’s proposal will eliminate guns in the U.S., everyone knows that this change in rules will raise the cost of guns and put many out of business.

After adding up all these fees, taxes, and liabilities, few Americans are going to be able to afford guns.  That is especially true for the people who need guns the most for protection — poor blacks who live in high crime urban areas. It wouldn’t be surprising if some otherwise law-abiding citizens resort to buying guns illegally.

Of course, Clinton’s plan to take away peoples guns could be seen in all her misleading or false statements.  On Sunday, she  couldn’t help repeating the false statistic that gun violence in America claims the lives of “33,000 people a year.”  In 2014, there were 21,334 firearm suicides, 586 accidental gun deaths, and 8,124 gun murders.  Clinton gets to the 33,000 number by adding in roughly 3,000 justifiable homicides by police and civilians.

Moreover, 71 percent of these 30,134 deaths are suicides. In light of Clinton’s support for legalizing assisted suicide, it is strange for her not to make a clear distinction between suicides and murders.  Research continually shows that banning guns won’t prevent suicides — there are simply too many easy ways to kill oneself.  In Japan, which has a suicide rate that is 54 percent higher than the U.S. rate, many people take their lives by stepping in front of trains.

The 90 percent poll number that she uses is just as misleading, since it doesn’t actually ask about real legislation.

It’s time for someone to ask Clinton a simple question: Won’t overturning the Heller decision make gun bans possible again? If so, exactly how is Donald Trump’s statement wrong?

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including “More Guns, Less Crime.” His latest book is “Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench” Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.

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