During Wednesday night’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton defended her disagreement with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on gun rights by saying it was about keeping toddlers from gaining access to firearms.
But her statement ignores the main holding in the 2008 decision, in which the justices overturned a long-standing law in the District of Columbia that largely banned handgun ownership in the city.
“What the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns,” the Democratic candidate said about the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.
“So they wanted people with guns to safely store them, and the court didn’t accept that reasonable regulation. But they’ve accepted many others, so I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment,” Mrs. Clinton said.
The court’s ruling did strike down a city provision that required those who own firearms, such as rifles and shotguns, to keep them either unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock in their homes.
But the landmark case is more widely known for striking down the District’s near-total ban on handgun ownership and for establishing for the first time that the Second Amendment does guarantee a right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense.
The case was brought by Dick Heller, a special police officer who was licensed to carry a handgun for his work but was unable to keep one at home as a result of the ban.
D.C. officials argued in the case that the “majority of people killed in handgun accidents are young adults and children” and that the handgun ban and trigger-lock requirements would together “reduce crime, suicide, domestic violence, and accidental shootings.”
In a brief submitted to the court, D.C. attorneys cited a 1991 U.S. General Accounting Office study that found “8 percent of accidental shooting deaths resulted from shots fired by children under the age of six, which could have been prevented by childproof safety locks.”
Mrs. Clinton said she was upset by the ruling because “dozens of toddlers injure themselves, even kill people, with guns.”
The Heller decision is regarded as a watershed moment for gun rights advocates, not because it invalidated the trigger lock provision, but because it guaranteed an individual right to possess a firearm — at least inside the home.
Fending off criticism from Republican nominee Donald Trump that she would dismantle the Second Amendment, Mrs. Clinton said “common-sense regulation” is not at odds with the right to keep and bear arms.
“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,” she said.
Asked why he supports a national right-to-carry law and opposes limits on high-capacity magazines, Mr. Trump referred to the high level of gun violence in Chicago, which has strict gun regulations, and said he hopes to strengthen gun rights through appointments to the Supreme Court.
“We are going to appoint justices. This is the best way to help the Second Amendment,” Mr. Trump said.