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Hillary Clinton's crackdown on guns would bypass Congress

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks about gun control during her campaign stop at the Broward College Ð Hugh Adams Central Campus on October 2, 2015, in Davie, Florida.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks about gun control during her campaign stop at the Broward College Ð Hugh Adams Central Campus on October 2, 2015, in Davie, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton is taking President Barack Obama's advice to gun control advocates: She's going to politicize the issue.

Clinton's new plan, released less than a week after the deadly shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, goes above and beyond the measures Clinton already has announced her support for — such as renewing the assault weapons ban and enhancing background checks for gun buyers.

The most interesting feature is that she would go around a gridlocked Congress to close the gun show loophole, which allows private sellers to avoid background-check and record-keeping rules that apply to licensed dealers.

Clinton would push an executive branch rule redefining the way the law looks at people who sell lots of guns but don't do it out of a brick-and-mortar store, an aide said. Under the rule, people who try to sell a "significant number of guns" would be deemed to be "in the business" of selling firearms. That would require many private sellers to become licensed dealers, which would make them responsible for conducting background checks, keeping records of sales, and making records available to law enforcement officers upon request.

Clinton would also back legislation closing the "Charleston loophole," which federal officials say allowed the man accused of killing nine people in a South Carolina church earlier this year to obtain a gun. Under current law, a gun sale can go through if a background check isn't completed within three days. The South Carolina shooter's background check, which would have been flagged, wasn't finished in the allotted time.

Clinton would support two other legislative efforts: to repeal the gun industry's exemption from lawsuits against manufacturers — an exemption Bernie Sanders has supported — and to prevent stalkers and those convicted of abusing people they were dating from obtaining guns.

All in all, it's a very aggressive plan that comes on top of Clinton's existing proposals to control the sale and misuse of guns.

It also helps Clinton draw a contrast with Sanders, who has been relatively pro-gun rights for a Democrat: He opposed the landmark "Brady bill" that created background checks for handgun purchases, voted to ban lawsuits against gun manufacturers whose weapons are misused, and supported allowing people to bring guns on Amtrak trains. In the aftermath of the Umpqua shootings, Sanders called only for "sensible gun control legislation which prevents guns from being used by people who should not have them."

It's also an issue on which Clinton is distinct from her Republican rivals, who are pretty uniform in their analysis that no new laws are needed to stop mass killings. In articulating that point of view — that the killings shouldn't prompt a change in policy — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush elicited rebukes from Democrats for saying "stuff happens" and that tragedies shouldn't be the basis for changes in law.


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