Hillary Rodham Clinton offered an emotional plea for tougher gun control laws on Oct. 5, vowing after last week’s deadly Oregon school shooting to tighten regulations on firearms buyers and sellers with a combination of congressional and executive action.
Joined by the mother of a 6-year-old victim of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the Democratic presidential candidate said there was little “new” and “nothing unique” about her plans – aside from her determination to take action.
During a campaign appearance at a town hall, Clinton decried the “extremism” that she said has come to characterize the debate over the nation’s gun laws. She veered between sadness and anger, accusing her Republican opponents of “surrender” to a difficult political problem.
“This epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries, knows no limits of any kind,” she told the crowd of several hundred. “How many people have to die before we actually act, before we come together as a nation? It’s time for us to say we’re better than this.”
Clinton has made strengthening the nation’s gun laws a centerpiece of her presidential campaign following a series of mass shootings in the past few months.
Her campaign rolled out a robust set of proposals Monday, including using executive action as president to expand background check requirements. Under current federal law, such checks are not required for sales made at gun shows or over the Internet.
Clinton pledged to require anyone “attempting to sell a significant number of guns” to be considered a firearms dealer, and therefore need a federal license. She did not say how many gun sales would constitute a “significant” number.
Efforts to require such comprehensive background checks have failed several times in recent years in Congress, where Republican leaders have shown no willingness to even hold votes on efforts to curb access to guns.
Clinton’s attempt to circumvent staunch opposition would likely spark legal challenges from gun advocates, as well as from Republicans sure to question whether a president has the authority to act directly.
Clinton also said she would support a law to expand the definition of domestic abusers barred from buying guns. She also wants to prohibit retailers from selling guns to people with incomplete background checks, as happened in the June case of a man accused of killing nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Clinton proposed repealing legislation that shields gun manufacturers, distributors and dealers of firearms from most liability suits, including in cases of mass shootings.
While Clinton’s Republican rivals have condemned the Oregon attack, most were also quick to declare their opposition to stricter gun laws to address mass shootings.
Her plan strikes a contrast with her closest primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. While Sanders has wooed the Democratic base with his liberal positions on issues of income inequality and college debt, he’s struggled to defend a more mixed record on gun legislation that reflects his rural, gun-friendly home state.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, Sanders backed all the Democratic gun bills brought up in Congress. But in 1993, he voted against the landmark Brady handgun bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period for gun purchasers, and he backed legislation in 2005 granting legal immunity to many in the gun industry.
Sanders now says he supports banning assault weapons and closing the so-called gun show loophole that exempts private, unlicensed gun sales from background check requirements.
Clinton declined to address Sanders’ positions on guns directly during a Monday morning event hosted by NBC’s “Today” show, saying she’d let “Sen. Sanders talk about himself.”
But she said she wasn’t surprised by his recent rise in New Hampshire polls, mentioning his long tenure representing a neighboring state.
“I really believe this is great for the Democrats and this election,” she said of the competitive contest. “We really want to turn out as many people as possible.”
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