Donald Trump keeps calling his Democratic opponent “Lyin’ Hillary,” and poll after poll shows that though most voters might shy away from Mr. Trump’s blunt characterization of Hillary Clinton, they share his belief that the lady cannot really be trusted or believed. Her penchant for, well, lying was on display last week in Philadelphia even as she tried to assure those watching that she can, in fact, be trusted.
Mrs. Clinton looked into the cameras during her acceptance speech at Philadelphia’s Democratic National Convention last Thursday and said with a straight face, “I’m not here to repeal the Second Amendment. I’m not here to take away your guns.” Those words were a response to Donald Trump’s assertion in speaking to the National Rifle Association in Louisville, Ky., earlier this summer that if elected, Mrs. Clinton would “abolish the Second Amendment.” Based on her earlier statements on the issue, it was a lie.
The sentence also echoed President Obama’s assertion during both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns that he is a “believer” in the Second Amendment who would “never take your pistol, shotgun or rifle.” His words were meant to reassure America’s gun owners, Second Amendment supporters, hunters and sport shooters that they had nothing to fear. It worked to a degree because prior to the beginning of his second term he hadn’t posed much of a threat to their rights; he was too busy doing other things and didn’t want to risk an anti-firearms crusade before being re-elected.
I headed the National Rifle Association during Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign and even some NRA members fell for the line. I received many letters from NRA members during that campaign claiming that we were wrong about the president. When NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre warned that if re-elected, Mr. Obama would move to further restrict the rights of individual Americans to own firearms, pundits like Chris Matthews, who claimed the belief was simply proof that Mr. LaPierre was “clinically insane,” rushed to Mr. Obama’s defense. It didn’t take long after being re-elected for Mr. Obama to prove Mr. LaPierre right.
Mr. Obama’s assurances worked to a degree precisely because he hadn’t moved to restrict gun rights during his first term and because most Americans both liked him and trusted him. Mrs. Clinton is neither likeable nor trusted, and even while trying to reassure gun owners, has been pretty clear as to what she would like to do. Last year she told donors in New York that District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 Supreme Court case that affirmed the Founders’ intention to guarantee individual citizens of the republic they were creating the right to “keep and bear arms,” was “wrongly decided.”
The court’s landmark decision in that case turned on the answer to the one question it presented. That question was simple enough: Does the Second Amendment guarantee the right of a private citizen to keep a handgun in the home for personal protection? The court’s answer is that it does. To reverse Heller would be to, in effect, abolish the Second Amendment and the right of private citizens in this country to own firearms even for self-defense. President Hillary Clinton would create a court majority that would do just that.
What’s more, Mrs. Clinton who, like Mr. Obama, talks about “common-sense” restrictions on firearms ownership because, as she put it in Philadelphia, “I just don’t want you to be shot by someone who shouldn’t have a gun in the first place,” has said that the two nations who have model gun laws we might do well to emulate are Great Britain and Australia. Both have not simply restricted, but abolished the private ownership of most firearms and both have forcibly confiscated privately owned guns.
It is Mrs. Clinton’s belief based on what she has said that no American has a right to own or possess a gun for any reason, so her “someone” is everyone except perhaps members of her own personal security team. A sentence of reassurance in a campaign in which Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly bragged that she will fight for the “common-sense” restrictions she favors is far from enough to convince anyone who has followed her career that Mr. Trump’s description of her intentions was mistaken.
• David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times.