The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.
Due t0 unforseen circumstances, there are no new BOTW posts this week. Mr. Taranto writes: “We expect to return the week of Nov. 9 from an unplanned absence.” (The excerpts below are from the BOTW archives for Oct. 12 and Oct. 20.)
Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate
“An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.”—New York Times, Oct. 9
Could It Happen Here?
Hillary Clinton is open to the idea of gun confiscation, the New York Times’s Amy Chozick reported (in October):
At a town hall-style event [on Oct. 13] in Keene, N.H., Mrs. Clinton was asked if she would consider the program, set up after a mass shooting, under which the Australian government bought back roughly 650,000 guns and then imposed stricter standards for gun purchases.
“I think it would be worth considering doing it on the national level if that could be arranged,” Mrs. Clinton said. She compared the buyback, versions of which some communities in the United States already have adopted, to President Obama’s Car Allowance Rebate System (better known as “cash for clunkers”), which offered incentives for people to buy new cars and get energy-inefficient vehicles off the road.
“I do not know enough details to tell you how we would do it, or how it would work,” Mrs. Clinton said. “But certainly your example is worth looking at.”
Mrs. Clinton disclaimed knowledge of the “details,” but Chozick’s editor actually demonstrated a lack of such knowledge. Appended to the column is this correction: “Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article gave an incorrect description of an Australian gun buyback program. It was mandatory, not voluntary.”
But go to the video, and it’s clear the question was about confiscation and not some act in which a magician calls for volunteers from the audience and makes their guns disappear. “Recently, Australia managed to get away, or take away, tens of thousands, or millions, of handguns, and in one year, they were all gone,” says the white-haired, mustachioed old man. “Can we do that, and why—if we can’t, why can’t we?”
The obvious answer is because the Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. Mrs. Clinton, who claimed in 2008 to “respect” the Second Amendment, notably did not mention it Friday.
Her comments represent a noteworthy shift in Democratic strategy on the gun question. As we noted Oct. 2, President Obama cited Australia’s example favorably during his rush to politicize the recent murders in Oregon. But the president was vague about what Australia did; he said merely that it has “been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.”
And unlike Mrs. Clinton, Obama isn’t running for office. When he was, in 2008, he insisted: “I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.”
Our assumption is that both Obama and Mrs. Clinton would be delighted to take your guns away if they thought they could get away with it. If that is the case, it follows that any protestations to the contrary are the result of political constraints, and that if those protestations have stopped, it is because those constraints have eased—or at least the politicians perceive them as having eased.
Obama is relatively unconstrained because he is a lame duck. But if Mrs. Clinton is suddenly speaking honestly, it suggests that she thinks favoring gun confiscation has become politically far less dangerous.
Has it? A new Gallup poll does show an increase in public support for gun control. Respondents were asked: “In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict or kept the same as they are now?” Fifty-five percent said more strict, up eight points since 2014.
Our thought was that perhaps this was a function of partisan polarization. The parties are quite polarized, but not that much more than they were a year ago. The percentage of Democrats saying gun-sale laws should be “more strict” rose six points, to 77% from 71%. Republican support declined two points, to 27% from 29%. But the biggest shift was among independents, whose support for stricter laws rose 11 points, to 56% from 45%.
On the other hand, it’s not clear if this is the start of a trend. In the immediate wake of the December 2012 Newtown massacre, the proportion favoring stricter laws rose to 58%, the highest since 2004 (60%). The overall trend has been downward, and it’s possible the latest number is another spike.
Gallup also asks: “Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?” Only 27% of all respondents answer “yes” to that one, up a paltry three points since 2014. Gallup has been asking the question since 1959, when 60% answered in the affirmative; but the noes have outnumbered the yeses since the mid-1960s.
In 2013 even modest new restrictions couldn’t get past a Senate with a Democratic majority, never mind the Republican House. So a willingness to consider outright confiscation would appear to put Mrs. Clinton far to the left of most Americans—though not of most of the national media, who are wildly enthusiastic about gun control. Perhaps she’s been reading too many stories like a recent one from the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki, who claims the “landscape is changing.”
“Newtown really marked a major turning point in America’s gun debate,” law professor Adam Winkler tells Surowiecki. “We’ve seen a completely new, reinvigorated gun-control movement, one that has much more grassroots support, and that’s now being backed by real money.” Surowiecki elaborates:
Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC, Independence USA, has spent millions backing gun-control candidates, and he’s pledged fifty million dollars to the cause. Campaigners have become more effective in pushing for gun-control measures, particularly at the local and state level: in Washington State last year, a referendum to expand background checks got almost sixty per cent of the vote. There are even signs that the N.R.A.’s ability to make or break politicians could be waning; senators it has given F ratings have been reëlected in purple states.
Surowiecki ignores the disjunction between the description of antigun groups as “grassroots” and their reliance on a billionaire’s super PAC, but never mind. If Mrs. Clinton read the Surowiecki piece, she might not have reached the last paragraph, which suggests there’s still a risk of going too far:
The gun-control movement is far more pragmatic than it once was. When the N.R.A. took up the banner of gun rights, in the seventies, gun-control advocates were openly prohibitionist. (The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was originally called the National Coalition to Ban Handguns.) Today, they’re respectful of gun owners and focussed on screening and background checks. That’s a sensible strategy. It’s also an accommodation to the political reality that the N.R.A. created.
The Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski notes that a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Jennifer Palmieri, yesterday “walked back” the inevitable Democratic nominee’s Friday remarks (correcting nonstandard capitalization):
“Finally a quick question on gun control because the NRA on the weekend really went after her,” [NBC’s Andrea] Mitchell said. “Was she suggesting in her town hall meetings in New Hampshire on Friday, which she said she would look into the Australian system, was she suggesting confiscation of guns?”
“Of course not,” Palmieri responded. “She was, what she was referring to is places where there have been mass shootings and the countries have done something. She has put forward a very common-sense proposal that would have background checks for everyone, that would remove the special protections the gun industry has from liability but it’s all very common-sense measures the majority of the public supports.”
So maybe Mrs. Clinton was “openly prohibitionist” (Surowiecki’s phrase) for but a fleeting moment. Still, that’s more honesty than we’ve come to expect.
For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”