“Yesterday, once again, this time horrifically on live television,” says Hillary Clinton in a video on her presidential campaign website, “we saw the terrible consequences of gun violence.” As it turns out, she’s not talking about civilian deaths from drone strikes or bombing raids on hospitals by the U.S. government, but instead about a criminal shooting spree in the United States. Sure enough, the Washington Post pointed out last week that one of Clinton’s signature issues heading into the general election is tightening restrictions on the ownership and use of guns by Americans.
That’s a tall order in a country where gun ownership for recreational shooting and self-defense is wildly popular. Nobody knows for sure, but the best estimate is that there are north of 300 million firearms in private hands in this country. The ownership of those weapons is closely intermingled with the concept of personal liberty and resistance to abusive government in the minds of a great many Americans, as documented by scholars who both approve and disapprove of that association. Unsurprisingly, federal lawmakers from both major parties are hesitant to wade into the issue, either because they share the aversion to restrictive gun laws, or because they’re leery of voters who do, and who are wont to collect scalps on election day. Just last November, analysts attributed aggressive advocacy of gun control as the key to Democratic losses in Virginia’s legislative races.
But Hillary Clinton has a plan.
“If Congress refuses to act, Hillary will take administrative action” on restrictions, her campaign boasts. The Washington Post adds that that a President Clinton would be “relying on the executive power of the presidency to further gun restrictions that would have little chance of becoming law.”