Hillary's Leadership on Guns

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

Two and half years ago, a gunman murdered 20 children and six adults in a Connecticut public school. Last month, another gunman murdered nine members of a prayer group in a South Carolina church.

Sandy Hook. Charleston.

As the 2016 presidential campaign takes shape this summer, those two names are sad and tragic markers of our national debate on guns and their place in American society. They are shorthand for mass gun violence in a country that has come to accept easy access to firearms, weak enforcement of regulations, and a twisted gun culture that stubbornly resists common sense solutions to an epidemic of violence.

With the lives of children on the line, few issues carry as much weight as the need for strong and reasonable gun control in the United States. How many more families need to be torn apart? How many more communities tragically shattered?

In a serious and well-reasoned piece in the Washington Post this week, Philip Rucker noted that “for at least the past several decades, Democrats seeking national office have often been timid on the issue of guns for fear of alienating firearms owners.” Then he identified a potent new force on that issue in this nascent campaign: Hillary Clinton. 

“Clinton is not only initiating a debate about gun control but also vowing to fight the National Rifle Association,” wrote Rucker.

For those who wrongly suggest that Hillary’s public career has been timid and devoid of risk, here is yet another piece of evidence that cannot be denied: she is leading – at some political risk to her campaign – an effort to turn the tide on gun control.

As the Post reported, she’s out there on the stump talking about gun control:

“I’m going to speak out against the uncontrollable use of guns in our country because I believe we can do better,” Clinton said Tuesday in Iowa City.

A few days earlier, she said in Hanover, N.H.: “We have to take on the gun lobby. . . . This is a controversial issue. I am well aware of that. But I think it is the height of irresponsibility not to talk about it.”

This doesn’t sit well with Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA and leader of the pro-gun lobby. At the NRA’s convention this spring, he took aim at Hillary in his keynote speech.

“I vow on this day the NRA will stand shoulder to shoulder with you and good, honest decent Americans and we will stand and fight with everything we’ve got and in 2016, by God, we will elect the next great president of the United States of America and it will not be Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

#HillaryMen intend to prove him wrong. We’re for reasonable and well-enforced gun control. We’re not against hunting or sport or personal protection. We respect the Second Amendment. We understand that responsible and regulated gun ownership is part of our history as Americans.

In fact, Peter grew up a hunter, lived in the war zone of Beirut for most of his youth and received extensive military training by the Christian Lebanese Forces militia during his teens. Tom was a junior marksman with an NRA badge. Their experience informs their respect for the power of firearms and reinforces their support for Hillary's position.

The fact is, we are living in a society that boasts 42 percent of the world’s guns in civilian hands. It is a society where automatic weapons proliferate outside the military. Responsible gun ownership and respect for the Second Amendment does not mean we should be reckless about the safety of our children. 

In his speech this spring, LaPierre roared against Hillary: “She’s been coming after us for decades! Hillary Clinton hasn’t met a gun control bill that she couldn’t support!”

Memo to Mr. LaPierre: let the gun debate be front and center this election and let Hillary Clinton take the lead. #HillaryMen proudly stand with her.

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Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.