Clinton on Individual Right to Bear Arms: 'If It Is a Constitutional Right...'

Susan Jones | June 6, 2016 | 5:15am EDT
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Greater St. Paul Church, Sunday, June 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher)

( - "Do you believe that an individual's right to bear arms is a constitutional right?" ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Democrat Hillary Clinton on Sunday's "This Week."

"If it is a constitutional right, then it, like every other constitutional right, is subject to reasonable regulation," Clinton said. "And what people have done with that (Heller) decision is to take it as far as they possibly can and reject what has been our history from the very beginning of the republic, where some of the earliest laws that were passed were about firearms.

"So I think it's important to recognize that reasonable people can say, as I do, responsible gun owners have a right -- I have no objection to that. But the rest of the American public has a right to require certain kinds of regularity, responsible actions to protect everyone else."

In June 2008, the Supreme Court (in District of Columbia v. Heller) ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, although it said some restrictions are permissible.

Stephanopoulos noted that in 1993, Clinton supported a 25 percent sales tax on guns, "to get some handle on all this violence," as she said at the time. "Do you still believe that?" he asked Clinton.

"What I was saying back then was that we have a lot of public health costs that taxpayers end up paying for through Medicaid, Medicare, through uncompensated care, because that was in the context of the push for health care reform and that we needed some way to try to defray those costs," Clinton said.

"And I'm not going to commit to any specific proposal. I was speaking personally then. I would have to consider any proposal in light of how it interacted with all the others that we want to continue to advocate for, particularly, as I said, comprehensive background checks.

"But that was in the context of health care.

"When you have mass shootings, you not only have the terrible deaths, you have people who are injured. You know, I was just in San Bernardino yesterday. And I met some of the survivors. One woman who was shot twice, who's had a series of surgeries. Two other women who were cowering in abject terror by the terrorists' unbelievable assault on their co-workers.

"What they talked to me about is where do they get the financial support to deal with both the physical and the emotional trauma?

"You know, is it workman's comp support, which is one of the arguments? Is it private insurance? Is it because they work for the county, something the county should pay for? There are real costs that people incur because of the terrible gun violence epidemic.

"And we have to deal with it. And I'm going to be looking for ways to deal with it. I'm not committed to anything other than what I've said in this campaign.

"But I do want people to ask themselves, can't we do better than have 33,000 people killed every year by guns and many thousands more injured? And I take we can."

Earlier in the interview, Clinton listed some of the "reasonable" and "common sense" regulations that government has a right to impose on the Second Amendment:

"I'm going to continue to speak out for comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loopholes, closing the online loophole, closing the so-called Charleston loophole, reversing the bill that Senator Sanders voted for and I voted against, giving immunity from liability to gun makers and sellers. I think all of that can and should be done and it is, in my view, consistent with the "Constitution."

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed by Congress in 2005, provides immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers resulting  from the "criminal or lawful misuse” of firearms.

Stripping gun manufacturers of that immunity raises the possibility that they would be sued out of business, which is what anti-gun advocates want.

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