S.E. Cupp: Trump's dangerous remark about Clinton shows just how disconnected he is from the 2nd Amendment
She says it's common for pols to pander on gun rights, but his remarks do not reflect responsible gun owners' views
Editor’s Note: S.E. Cupp is the author of “Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity,” co-author of “Why You’re Wrong About the Right” and a columnist at the New York Daily News. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.
Years before he would run for President and sedate the world with his dulcet riffs on the pyramids and Popeyes, Dr. Ben Carson was auditioning as a would-be political leader on Glenn Beck’s television show. Running through a quiz on the issues, Beck asked him if he thought semi-automatic weapons should be legal.
“It depends on where you live,” Carson said. “I think if you live in the midst of a lot of people, and I’m afraid that that semi-automatic weapon is going to fall into the hands of a crazy person, I would rather you not have it.”
It was a memorable moment for me. I was working for Beck’s network, TheBlaze, at the time, and Carson’s remarks came just before my show went on air. My jaw dropped.
Anyone remotely fluent in the Second Amendment and gun issues would never talk the way Carson did. For one, semi-automatic weapons describe the vast majority of guns, from handguns to shotguns to rifles. Limiting their use to outside “the midst of a lot of people,” wherever that is, is capricious and unconstitutional, regardless of what Carson would “rather.”
For me, it was a nonstarter. Whatever his political ambitions, I would not be on board.
Gun owners and gun rights supporters can spot a phony from a mile away – someone talking like anti-gunners think we would talk.
This week Donald Trump pulled a Carson, and showed just how disconnected he is from gun rights and the Second Amendment.
In case you’ve taken an Olympics break from the news, Trump made Olympic-sized news himself, implying that gun owners would stop Hillary Clinton from making Supreme Court picks.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” Trump said at a rally. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
The comments sparked an immediate and understandable firestorm. Even a supporter behind Trump made a shocked face as the words came out of the candidate’s mouth.
Trump and his surrogates have tried to imply this was some kind of gaffe, that he didn’t intend to suggest gun owners would violently take out Clinton or her court picks. They insist he meant they would respond by voting for him.
Of course the problem is, Trump’s hypothetical – “if she gets to pick her judges” – puts us after November, not before it.
Then there’s this, from the Trump spokeswoman who inexplicably but reliably always manages to make something he’s said sound even worse:
“He was saying … what could happen,” Katrina Pierson told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “The Lead.” “He doesn’t want that to happen.”
So, at least one person from the Trump campaign believes the candidate meant that gun owners “could” respond violently to Clinton’s court picks.
Not surprisingly, the Secret Service also took Trump seriously, tweeting ominously: “The Secret Service is aware of the comments made earlier this afternoon.”
Trump’s remark was not a gaffe. This was Trump attempting to pander to a group of voters he is pretending to understand.
In addition to being undisciplined, offensive and even dangerous, Trump’s comments reflect ideas completely outside those held by the mainstream of Second Amendment supporters.
Putting your fringe militia kooks aside, gun owners don’t talk this way or think this way. The millions of gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment know it’s there to protect against tyranny, not a politician performing her elected duties.
Defending the Second Amendment should not be done recklessly, opportunistically and flippantly: the right to bear arms isn’t a campaign rally punchline, nor is it a casual threat. Responsible gun owners – which account for the overwhelming majority – take gun ownership and gun rights seriously. Trump, because he has little relationship with the politics and policies he has recently discovered, doesn’t know this. Like Carson, he talks like he thinks “gun nuts” talk.
To highlight this, the NRA tweeted in the wake of Trump’s comments and the backlash, “Joe Biden in 2008: If Obama ’tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem.’”
Unintentionally or otherwise, it’s an apt comparison. Biden has also pretended to talk like a gun rights supporter – and unconvincingly.
He once told women concerned about self-defense that he advised his wife to “just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house” if she were ever afraid. Unfortunately, that’s illegal in Delaware, but whatevs. You sound tough, Joe.
Clinton, too, has put on this show before.
In 2008, while campaigning against Barack Obama, who had just announced a proposed handgun ban, Clinton waxed nostalgic about her love of shooting for the Indiana crowd. “It’s part of our culture,” she said. “You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl.”
And, saying what gun owners across the country were thinking, Obama responded: “She’s talking like she’s Annie Oakley. Hillary Clinton is out there like she’s in the duck blind every Sunday. She’s packing a six-shooter.”
Posing as a friend to gun rights is one of the easier things to spot in politics.
Trump’s relationship with the Second Amendment, like his grasp of so many other important American institutions, is, well, promiscuous. He has previously – and recently! – called for more gun control measures. This latest comment is just another example of Trump renting conservative issues for a while, talking the way he thinks we talk, and making us all look horrible in the process.
On a final note, what Trump also said is true. If Hillary Clinton becomes president she will absolutely attempt to roll back our Second Amendment rights. She has promised to push for allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers when their product is used criminally, an idea more than 70% of Americans do not support, according to a survey released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation in April, and which former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders denounced as effectively “ending gun manufacturing in America.”
But unfortunately, that message – an important one – is drowned out by another one of Trump’s unforgivable outbursts. On guns, and practically everything else, Trump is, above all, a phony.