Gun rights advocates and other experts are firing back at Hillary Clinton’s assertion in Wednesday’s presidential debate that she opposed the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision on gun rights because the court failed to protect toddlers from getting access to firearms.
The issue was raised early in the debate as part of a wider discussion on how Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump view the Supreme Court. Moderator Chris Wallace asked pointed questions of both candidates on the Second Amendment, and he specifically asked Clinton about why she was critical of the 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.
“Secretary Clinton, you said last year, let me quote, ‘The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.’ And now, in fact, in the 2008 Heller case, the court ruled that there is a constitutional right to bear arms, but a right that is reasonably limited. Those were the words of the Judge Antonin Scalia who wrote the decision. What’s wrong with that?” asked Wallace.
After stating she respected the right of individuals to own firearms, Clinton addressed the Heller decision.
“You mentioned the Heller decision. And what I was saying that you referenced, Chris, was that I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that case, because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them,” said Clinton.
Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt was stunned by that answer.
“That was pretty surprising to me but then Hillary Clinton is kind of known for saying lots of things that are surprising to those who have an idea of what the truth actually is,” said Pratt.
He says nothing in the Heller case dealt with toddlers.
“Heller made no reference to toddlers. Toddlers were not really the problem. Heller was addressing the fact that your safety, your gun was locked up and unavailable for self-defense and that the District of Columbia couldn’t require that anymore, nor could they ban whole classes of guns, which in effect they had done,” said Pratt.
He says Heller was one of two critical cases that affirmed the intent of the Second Amendment.
Hear the interview:
“Heller laid a real marker down for the subsequent McDonald case out of Chicago, which together made it clear to judges who apparently hadn’t been able to understand heretofore, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and you can’t just go and ban whole classes of guns. That’s what Heller was about,” said Pratt.
Pratt says he also isn’t buying Clinton’s passion for protecting toddlers in general, since just minutes later she vigorously defended partial birth abortions.
“Hillary Clinton is worried about toddlers when she is okay, as Donald Trump in the same debate pointed out, she’s okay pulling a baby out of the womb an hour before it’s born and tearing it apart. So her concern about toddlers strikes me as somewhat academic,” said Pratt.
While asserting her respect for the Second Amendment, Clinton also listed some “common sense” restrictions she would like to see enacted.
“I think we need comprehensive background checks, need to close the online loophole, close the gun show loophole. There’s other matters that I think are sensible that are the kind of reforms that would make a difference that are not in any way conflicting with the Second Amendment,” said Clinton.
Pratt offers a few different warnings on those proposals, starting with his skepticism that the government needs to have its nose in every single gun sale.
“She’s saying that if a father gives a gun to a son that he’s known for, say, 30 years, that somehow a background check is going to tell us more?” asked Pratt.
He also says recent shootings prove background checks do not necessarily stop horrific shootings.
“Many, many of the mass murders that have been accomplished in our time have been carried out by folks that either could have passed a background check or actually did pass a background check,” said Pratt, who also fears Clinton’s “other matters” will include an expansion of gun-free zones, which Pratt points out are the scenes of the vast majority of mass shootings.
As for Trump, Pratt was thrilled that the GOP nominee not only spoke in defense of the Second Amendment but wanted justices on the Supreme Court who see the Constitution the way the founders did.
“He actually used the word original or originalist, justices who would view the Second Amendment as it was intended to be understood. That’s a big deal. That’s quite the opposite from the ‘living, breathing’ Constitution, which means any bloody thing a judge puts into his cockamamie head,” said Pratt.
Pratt, who endorsed Ted Cruz during the GOP primary, admits Trump still seems a bit lacking in the details of the Heller case and other aspects of the gun policy debate. But Pratt says he is encouraged by the addition of Gov. Mike Pence to the GOP ticket, noting Gun Owners of America only disagreed once with Pence on gun issues during the 12 years Pence was in the House of Representatives.
In the end, Pratt backs Trump mostly because of what Clinton has promised elsewhere on gun policy.
“Hillary Clinton is capable of energizing a lot of gun owners because her statement about her model that she would have in mind, where to go in pursuing gun legislation, was that of Australia. Well, Australia banned every single semi-automatic handgun, shotgun, and rifle,” said Pratt.
He firmly believes that would be Clinton’s goal if elected president.