Hillary Clinton has unveiled a series of proposals aimed at reducing US gun violence, including universal background checks, rolling back legal immunity for the gun industry, and legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.
Clinton’s announcement, which she will expand upon Monday while campaigning in New Hampshire, followed yet another deadly mass shooting – the 44th this year at a school – at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday. The Democratic presidential candidate vowed to take on the National Rifle Association and gun lobby in the wake of the massacre, in which a gunman killed nine people and then himself.
Clinton’s firearm proposals arrived as gun control emerged to the forefront of the conversation in the Democratic race for the White House. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley issued his own broad platform for reform on Sunday, while Vermont senator Bernie Sanders sought to position himself as a consistent supporter of gun safety measures despite holding a mixed record on the issue.
Under Clinton’s plan, background checks would be expanded to close loopholes for private sales at gun shows and online. Congress failed to act on similar legislation after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Clinton, if elected president, would use executive action to deem any individual selling a significant number of firearms as “in the business” to hold private sellers to the same rules as gun retailers.
She also proposed closing a so-called “Charleston loophole” – a reference to the shooting in June at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in which the gunman was able to purchase a gun despite having a criminal record. Clinton’s campaign said she would push to ensure that a gun sale does not go forward if a background check is not complete within three days.
“Hillary Clinton lived in Arkansas and represented upstate New York – she knows that gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities,” her campaign said in a release. “But as a nation we can no longer allow guns to fall into the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the seriously mentally ill. It is a rebuke to the families that have lost loved ones, to the communities that are plagued by gun violence, and to this nation that we love.”
According to a fact sheet, Clinton would also call on Congress to repeal a federal statute signed by former President George W Bush that granted broad legal protections to gun manufacturers and dealers in both state and federal court. Citing the disproportionate number of deaths among young black males, Clinton’s campaign said she would also crack down on dealers who knowingly supply straw purchasers and traffickers with illegal weapons.
Clinton, a longtime and staunch advocate for stricter gun laws, also embraced proposals to prevent domestic abusers and the mentally ill from acquiring firearms and backed classifying straw purchasing as a federal crime.
The former secretary of state has repeatedly called for action against gun violence while campaigning across early voting states and amid a series of high-profile shootings over the summer.
Whether it was the Emanuel AME Church massacre in June, a movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana in July, or two reporters gunned down during a live broadcast in Roanoke, Virginia last month, Clinton has refused to shy away from calling for gun safety measures while condemning the influential gun lobby. Her rhetoric has grown sharper each time, and her frustration increasingly more visible.
A day after the Oregon shooting, Clinton urged the American public to form a “national movement” against the NRA and similar gun rights activists.
“What is wrong with us, that we cannot stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby, and the gun manufacturers they represent?” Clinton said while campaigning in Davie, Florida. “This is not just tragic. We don’t just need to pray for people. We need to act and we need to build a movement. It’s infuriating.”
“Republicans keep refusing to do anything to protect our communities. They put the NRA ahead of American families.”
Clinton’s proposals would face steep opposition from Republicans in Congress and ostensibly require Democrats to regain control of both chambers. Republicans on Capitol Hill have insisted gun violence is a mental health issue and led a filibuster in the Senate against the universal background checks bill.
Republican presidential candidates are uniformly against any new restrictions on guns. Former governor Jeb Bush and senator Marco Rubio, both of Florida, told reporters on Friday that new laws were not the answer at their own respective campaign events. Real estate mogul Donald Trump blamed the issue on mental illness, while referring to mass shooters in a Sunday interview as“geniuses in a certain way”.
Clinton has chosen a bolder way forward on gun control, a hot-button issue that is rarely made to be a theme by presidential campaigns apart from Republican candidates touting their second amendment bona fides.
O’Malley, who as governor signed into law one of the most comprehensive gun safety packages in the country, on Sunday called on both Clinton and Sanders by name to back provisions he laid out at a New Hampshire campaign event. They included a requirement that every person who purchases a firearm obtain a license and is fingerprinted, making gun trafficking a federal crime and a ban on assault weapons.
Clinton has long supported an assault weapons ban, which was signed by her husband in 1994 but not reauthorized by Congress upon its expiration in 2004. While running for president in 2008, the former first lady said during a primary debate that she would seek to reinstate the ban if elected to the White House.
Clinton also stood by her support of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines last summer while promoting her book Hard Choices.
“We cannot let a minority of people, and that’s what it is, it is a minority of people, hold a viewpoint that terrorises the majority of people,” Clinton said at the time during a CNN town hall.
Sanders has a more complex record on anti-gun violence measures. Although he voted to expand background checks after the Newtown shooting, the independent senator voted against legislation establishing mandatory background checks known as the Brady Bill and signed by Bill Clinton in 1993.
Sanders also supported the law granting legal immunity to gun manufacturers, but defense of his record has touted a D- rating from the NRA.
Reacting to the Oregon shooting in a Friday interview on MSNBC, the senator said he would support a ban on assault weapons and closing loopholes in the background checks system.
Gun rights’ groups have already begun to sound alarms over a Clinton presidency and its implications for access to firearms. But the Democratic frontrunner reminded voters on Friday that she’s been here before, referring to the former Clinton White House.
“We took them on in the ’90s. We’re gonna take them on again,” she said.
This article titled “Hillary Clinton unveils plan for tougher checks in bid to reduce gun violence” was written by Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th October 2015 04.00 UTC