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On The Issues: Guns And The Race For President

BOSTON (CBS) - "Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad," said a tearful President Barack Obama in January as he unveiled his latest set of proposals to curb gun violence, including an expansion of gun-buyer background checks.

Read: "On The Issues" Articles

But the president's tears were met with cries of another sort from the Republican presidential candidates.

"We have to protect our Second Amendment," said Donald Trump.

"I am convinced that if this president could confiscate every gun in America, he would," added Marco Rubio.

"In any Republican primary, everyone is going to say they support the Second Amendment, unless you are clinically insane," noted Ted Cruz.

Sure enough, Cruz has an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, with Rubio earning a B-plus. And while Trump has no NRA grade, he says he's a lifetime NRA member and staunch gun control opponent.

"This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns," the president said with a sigh at that same January event.

But is the resistance of the GOP hopefuls reasonable?

"They should be looking at common-sense restrictions," says WBZ-TV security analyst Ed Davis, a former commissioner of the Boston Police and an international consultant on policing issues.

"I think that what the president proposed in the last couple of months is the most common sense regulation that I've seen out there," Davis said.

But not to Trump, who says "the guns don't pull the trigger. It's the people that pull the trigger."

"This should not be a political issue," says Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

But gun control has become one of our most divisive political issues. And as WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Joe Mathieu notes, many Americans are voting with their wallets: "Last year, more guns were sold in this country than any year on record and they're still going up."

And while Sanders and Hillary Clinton both back the president's gun control plan, their contest is not immune from the conflict.

"He has voted with the NRA, with the gun lobby, numerous times," said Clinton in one debate about Sanders. "He voted against the Brady Bill five times."

"I think Secretary Clinton knows that what she says is very disingenuous. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA," Sanders replied.

And what are the chances that gun control compromise will ever make the grade in Washington?

"Everybody on the right believes the Democrats are trying to take the guns away from people, and everybody on the left thinks that everybody who owns a gun is crazy," said Davis.


As our report demonstrates, there is only so far any politician is prepared to run counter to the views of their core constituency on gun issues.

Vermont is a very pro-gun state with very liberal gun laws; thus, even one of the Senate's most-liberal members, Bernie Sanders, has been loathe to run too far left on those issues, even though it may be hurting him in the far more anti-gun climate of the Democratic race.

And while most police officers and officials would echo Ed Davis's remarks, the supposedly pro-cop GOP candidates aren't listening. Rail all you want to against gutless politicians, and you won't be that far wrong, but the bottom line is, as Davis suggests, voter views on guns are so deeply felt and set in granite, there may not be much any politician can do about the impasse.

Then again, that's what they once said about civil rights for African-Americans, women and gay people in this country.



"As president, Hillary will increase the number of gun sales subject to background checks:

Comprehensive federal background check legislation. Background checks reduce gun trafficking, reduce the lethality of domestic violence, and reduce unlawful gun transfers to dangerous individuals. It is reprehensible that bipartisan legislation supporting background checks failed in Congress after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But Hillary is not giving up—she will continue to fight for legislation to build on the Brady Bill's success.

Closing the "Charleston Loophole." Hillary will push Congress to close the loophole that allows a gun sale to proceed without a completed background check if that check has not been completed within three days. This loophole allowed the alleged Charleston shooter to purchase a gun even though he had a criminal record.

Tightening the gun show and Internet sales loophole if Congress won't. If Congress refuses to act, Hillary will take administrative action to require that any person attempting to sell a significant number of guns abide by the same commonsense rules that apply to gun stores—including requiring background checks on gun sales.

To ensure that the safety of our communities is prioritized over the profits of the gun lobby, Hillary will also:

Repeal the gun industry's unique immunity protection. Hillary believes the gun industry must be held accountable for violence perpetrated with their guns.

Hillary will lead the charge to repeal the so-called "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act," a dangerous law that prevents victims of gun violence from holding negligent manufacturers and dealers accountable for violence perpetrated with their guns.

Revoke the licenses of bad-actor dealers. Hillary believes we must do more to crack down on gun stores that flood our communities with illegal guns. As president, she will provide funding to increase inspections and aggressively enforce current law by revoking the licenses of dealers that knowingly supply straw purchasers and traffickers.

Hillary will fight to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill:

Support legislation to stop domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns. Although federal law generally prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing guns, this protection does not apply to people in dating relationships or convicted stalkers. Hillary will fight for legislation to prohibit all of these domestic abusers and stalkers from buying guns.

Make straw purchasing a federal crime. When an individual with a clean record buys a gun with the intention of giving it to a violent felon—only so that felon can avoid a background check—it should be a crime. Hillary will fight to make so-called "straw purchasing" a federal crime.

Close loopholes that let persons suffering from severe mental illness purchase and possess guns. Hillary will fight to improve existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should finalize its rulemaking to close loopholes in our laws and clarify that people involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment, such as the Virginia Tech shooter, are prohibited from buying guns.

Keep military-style weapons off our streets. Military-style assault weapons do not belong on our streets. They are a danger to law enforcement and to our communities. Hillary will work to keep assault weapons off our streets and supports reinstating the assault weapons ban."



"Overall, Bernie Sanders believes in a middle-ground solution in the national gun debate, saying in a recent interview:

'Folks who do not like guns [are] fine. But we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country — 99.9 percent of those people obey the law. I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle.'

Gun Control: Gun control legislation should ultimately fall on individual states, with the exception of instant background checks to prevent firearms from finding their way into the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and a federal ban on assault weapons.

Manufacturer Liability: Gun manufacturers should not be held liable for the misuse of their products, just as any other industry isn't held accountable for how end-consumers use their products.

Bernie believes that gun control is largely a state issue because attitudes and actions with regards to firearms differ greatly between rural and urban communities.

Nevertheless, Bernie believes there are situations where the federal government should intervene. He voted in favor of requiring background checks to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of felons and the mentally ill, passing a federal ban on assault weapons, and closing loopholes which allows private sellers at gun shows and on the internet to sell to individuals without background checks.

What examples are there to show this divide between rural and urban communities?

The state of Vermont, which Bernie represents as senator, is the most gun-friendly state in the nation, while at the same time it boasts the absolute lowest rate of gun-related crime.

How does Bernie believe gun legislation in the United States should be handled?

Bernie believes in middle-ground legislation. As such, he understands that Americans in rural areas have a very different view towards guns as do those who live in densely populated urban environments.

Bernie believes in a solution which promotes gun rights for those who wish to possess them while also ensuring their safe and secure use so that they cannot be used to harm fellow human beings.

To what extent does Bernie believe that gun regulation should be a federal issue?

Bernie has voted in favor of a nationwide ban on assault weapons, a nationwide ban on high-capacity magazines of over ten rounds, and nationwide expanded background checks that address unsafe loopholes.

Bernie believes assault weapons, as well as magazines holding more than ten bullets, should be banned nationwide. Why?

In a recent speech, Bernie explained that, in his view, assault weapons should be categorically banned:

The gun show loophole should be closed to prevent private sellers from selling firearms without background checks.

What is the gun show loophole?

Federal law currently stipulates that only licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks.Bernie supports closing the gun show loophole, which allows private sellers to sell firearms to private buyers without background checks. Currently only ten states require background checks for purchases at gun shows. Moreover, according to the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, a private seller is classified as any seller who doesn't rely on gun sales as the principal way of making their living. Because of this, it is easy to imagine that many individuals who have a regular source of income outside of selling firearms can claim that they are private sellers. This allows these individuals to exploit the gun show loophole and sell guns without requiring background checks.

What does Bernie propose to do about this?

Bernie has voted in favor of expanded background checks for all commercial sales with an exemption for sales between "family, friends, and neighbors". Bernie has also voted in favor of a national instant background check system.

How does Bernie believe we should address mass shootings and other gun-related violence?

Bernie believes that we have a crisis in addressing mental health issues in this country, saying in a recent interview:

'We need strong sensible gun control, and I will support it. But some people think it's going to solve all of our problems, and it's not. You know what, we have a crisis in the capability of addressing mental health illness in this country. When people are hurting and are prepared to do something terrible, we need to do something immediately. We don't have that and we should have that.'

Given that 23 percent of the perpetrators of mass shootings have been found to suffer from mental health issues, Bernie believes that expanding access to mental healthcare can address some of the root causes of gun-related violent crime.

Manufacturer Liability

Manufacturers and sellers of firearms should not be held accountable for the misuse of their products.

What legislation has Bernie voted in favor of to support this?

Bernie voted in favor of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prevents firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence as a result of the misuse of their products.

Why does Bernie support this?

In a recent interview, Bernie said:

'Now, the issues that you're talking about is, if somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer, and that murderer kills somebody with the gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not anymore than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beat somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about.'

In other words, the instrument itself cannot be held responsible for the being misused by the individual."



"Ted Cruz has been a tireless defender of the Second Amendment. From successfully protecting law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights at the Supreme Court to defeating legislation that sought to take away this right, Ted Cruz has always championed Americans' right to keep and bear arms.
Led the fight against Congress' legislation to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans; Authored legislation to strengthen citizens' Second Amendment rights and allow interstate firearms sales; Defended 31 states in District of Columbia v. Heller where the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on firearms in a 5-4 landmark decision; Awarded the NRA's 2010 Carter-Knight Freedom Fund, which "rewards exemplary activities in the support and protection of the right to Keep and Bear Arms" for his work in the Heller and McDonald cases; Argued against unreasonable and burdensome gun restrictions before the U.S. Court of Appeals."



"Gov. John R. Kasich continues to be a strong supporter of the right to bear arms and, as governor, has enacted sensible legislation to defend this basic, constitutional right. John Kasich is a gun-owner himself, and in his 2014 reelection was endorsed by the National Rifle Association for his support of the Second Amendment as an inviolate part of our Constitution.
Removing Burdensome Restrictions for Law-Abiding Concealed Carry Licensees: John Kasich enacted legislation protecting Ohio's concealed carry laws, including protecting the privacy of permit holders and allowing for reciprocity licenses with other states where permit holders can carry their firearms.
Opposing Barack Obama's Gun Control Efforts: John Kasich opposes President Obama's gun control executive orders. The Second Amendment is too important and Obama's hostility to it is too well known for him to be allowed to go around Congress and undermine the Second Amendment. His efforts to expand the federal government's interference with Americans' Right to Keep and Bear Arms are wrong and the governor opposes them.
Upholding Ohio's Outdoors Traditions: In addition to having a $3.6 billion annual economic impact in Ohio, hunting and fishing are parts of Ohio's long tradition of enjoying our natural places. John Kasich upheld this heritage by enacting legislation that removes restrictions on licensing requirements for hunters and by creating new policies to expand hunting rights in Ohio."



"The Second Amendment right to bear arms is one of Americans' most fundamental rights. Indeed, it is a right that reflects our country's founding values. Opponents of gun rights often maintain that it is outdated, but it is as important as ever, and no one knows that better than America's law-abiding gun owners.

Marco understands the threats facing gun owners in part because he's a gun-owner himself.

The President has no right to restrict the individual right to own a firearm. Yet President Obama's two terms — with failed attempts at ammunition bans, new restrictions on personal gun sales, and more — has attempted to chip away at the Second Amendment. Hillary Clinton has promised to double down on President Obama's efforts.

New gun laws will do nothing to deter criminals from obtaining firearms; they will simply be ignored by those who wish to do harm. Meanwhile, new restrictions will infringe on the rights of good, law-abiding Americans who wish to have a gun for hunting, sport, or, most important, the protection of their families.

Recent horrific mass shootings should prompt us to ask what causes people to commit these acts — like what can be done to improve the way we treat serious mental illness — rather than seize on the weapons they used.

Marco is proud to have an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association. He has fought to protect the Second Amendment by: Voting to block the Manchin-Bloomberg expansion of background checks; Protecting the Second Amendment rights of veterans and their families;Standing against any federal attempt to ban commonly owned sporting rifles and standard capacity magazines; Pushing to make concealed-carry permits function like drivers' licenses, so gun owners' constitutional rights don't end at state lines; Opposing U.S. involvement in the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty; Working to expand opportunities for sportsmen on federal lands; Fighting to defund the Department of Justice's radical "Operation Choke Point" and other federal attacks on law-abiding gun manufacturers and dealers; Pushing to bring fundamental Second Amendment rights back to D.C. residents

As President, Marco will continue to stand up for the rights of law-abiding gun owners, sportsmen, and hunters.

And on Day One, Marco will repeal President Obama's unconstitutional executive orders that infringe on the Second Amendment.



"The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period.

The Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Americans. The Constitution doesn't create that right – it ensures that the government can't take it away. Our Founding Fathers knew, and our Supreme Court has upheld, that the Second Amendment's purpose is to guarantee our right to defend ourselves and our families. This is about self-defense, plain and simple.

It's been said that the Second Amendment is America's first freedom. That's because the Right to Keep and Bear Arms protects all our other rights. We are the only country in the world that has a Second Amendment. Protecting that freedom is imperative. Here's how we will do that:

Enforce The Laws On The Books

We need to get serious about prosecuting violent criminals. The Obama administration's record on that is abysmal. Violent crime in cities like Baltimore, Chicago and many others is out of control. Drug dealers and gang members are given a slap on the wrist and turned loose on the street. This needs to stop.
Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama's former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a "cookie cutter" program. That's ridiculous. I call that program a success. Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place – in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.

Why does that matter to law-abiding gun owners? Because they're the ones who anti-gun politicians and the media blame when criminals misuse guns. We need to bring back and expand programs like Project Exile and get gang members and drug dealers off the street. When we do, crime will go down and our cities and communities will be safer places to live.

Here's another important way to fight crime – empower law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves. Law enforcement is great, they do a tremendous job, but they can't be everywhere all of the time. Our personal protection is ultimately up to us. That's why I'm a gun owner, that's why I have a concealed carry permit, and that's why tens of millions of Americans have concealed carry permits as well. It's just common sense. To make America great again, we're going to go after criminals and put the law back on the side of the law-abiding.

Fix Our Broken Mental Health System

Let's be clear about this. Our mental health system is broken. It needs to be fixed. Too many politicians have ignored this problem for too long.

All of the tragic mass murders that occurred in the past several years have something in common – there were red flags that were ignored. We can't allow that to continue. We need to expand treatment programs, because most people with mental health problems aren't violent, they just need help. But for those who are violent, a danger to themselves or others, we need to get them off the street before they can terrorize our communities. This is just common sense.
And why does this matter to law-abiding gun owners? Once again, because they get blamed by anti-gun politicians, gun control groups and the media for the acts of deranged madmen. When one of these tragedies occurs, we can count on two things: one, that opponents of gun rights will immediately exploit it to push their political agenda; and two, that none of their so-called "solutions" would have prevented the tragedy in the first place. They've even admitted it.

We need real solutions to address real problems. Not grandstanding or political agendas.

Defend The Rights of Law-Abiding Gun Owners

GUN AND MAGAZINE BANS. Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That's been proven every time it's been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like "assault weapons", "military-style weapons" and "high capacity magazines" to confuse people. What they're really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.

BACKGROUND CHECKS. There has been a national background check system in place since 1998. Every time a person buys a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer – which is the overwhelming majority of all gun purchases – they go through a federal background check. Study after study has shown that very few criminals are stupid enough to try and pass a background check – they get their guns from friends/family members or by stealing them. So the overwhelming majority of people who go through background checks are law-abiding gun owners. When the system was created, gun owners were promised that it would be instant, accurate and fair. Unfortunately, that isn't the case today. Too many states are failing to put criminal and mental health records into the system – and it should go without saying that a system's only going to be as effective as the records that are put into it. What we need to do is fix the system we have and make it work as intended. What we don't need to do is expand a broken system.

NATIONAL RIGHT TO CARRY. The right of self-defense doesn't stop at the end of your driveway. That's why I have a concealed carry permit and why tens of millions of Americans do too. That permit should be valid in all 50 states. A driver's license works in every state, so it's common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state. If we can do that for driving – which is a privilege, not a right – then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege.

MILITARY BASES AND RECRUITING CENTERS. Banning our military from carrying firearms on bases and at recruiting centers is ridiculous. We train our military how to safely and responsibly use firearms, but our current policies leave them defenseless. To make America great again, we need a strong military. To have a strong military, we need to allow them to defend themselves."


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