Debate Guide For Media On Trump And Gun Policy

Debate Guide For Media On Trump And Gun Policy


While the issue of gun violence and gun policy was a common topic of discussion during the Democratic presidential primary debates, Republican nominee Donald Trump gave less than three minutes worth of answers on the issue across 12 GOP primary debates. But gun-related issues have caused several flashpoints throughout Trump’s campaign, including when he claimed that “Second Amendment people” could do something about the election of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump Spoke About Gun Issues For Less Than Three Minutes During Primary Debates

Across 12 GOP Primary Debates, Trump Spent Less Than Three Minutes Answering Questions About Guns. According to a Media Matters search of debate transcripts for the terms “gun,” “firearm,” “Second Amendment,” “2nd Amendment,” “background check,” “concealed,” and “assault weapon,” Trump was asked about gun-related issues in three debates and his answers totaled 2 minutes and 55 seconds.

During Scant Questioning, Trump Pushed Inaccurate Talking Points About Guns

During The March 3 Fox News Debate, Trump Pushed The Myth That Armed Civilians Are An Effective Deterrent To Mass Public Shootings. Asked about his changing position on banning assault weapons, Trump spoke for 36 seconds and said of the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, “If we had guns, or if they had guns on the other side of the room, with the bullets going in the opposite direction, you would not have had 130 people killed”:

BRET BAIER: Mr. Trump, you were once a supporter of an assault weapons ban. So do you think there should be any restrictions on the Second Amendment.

DONALD TRUMP: No, I'm a big defender of the Second Amendment. And if you look at what's happened, whether it's in California, where you had the 14 people killed, whether it's in Paris -- which, by the way, has the toughest gun laws in the world and 130 people killed. Many, many people in the hospital gravely injured. They will be dying. Many people will be dying in addition. If we had guns, or if they had guns on the other side of the room, with the bullets going in the opposite direction, you would not have had 130 people killed. That I can tell you right now.


So I'm a very, very big supporter of the Second Amendment.

BAIER: But in 2000, you wrote in your book, "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons."

TRUMP: I don't support it anymore. I do not support the ban on assault. [Fox News Channel, Fox News Republican Debate, 3/3/16, The Washington Post, 3/3/16]

To read more about conservative falsehoods surrounding “gun-free zones” and mass public shootings and people who have concealed carry permits, click here.

Trump Made A Similar Claim About Mass Shootings During The January 14 Fox Business Debate. During his answer to a question about whether there should be any limitations on gun sales, which lasted a total of 1 minute and 4 seconds, Trump also incorrectly claimed that President Obama has issued executive orders on gun violence and it’s “not supposed to happen that way.” In fact, the president’s administration issued several executive actions to curb gun violence, which fell within the purview of the presidential powers:

MARIA BARTIROMO: Mr. Trump, are there any circumstances that you think we should be limiting gun sales of any kind in America?

DONALD TRUMP: No. I am a Second Amendment person. If we had guns in California on the other side where the bullets went in the different direction, you wouldn’t have 14 or 15 people dead right now. If even in Paris, if they had guns on the other side, going in the opposite direction, you wouldn’t have 130 people plus dead. So the answer is no and what Jeb said is absolutely correct. We have a huge mental health problem in this country. We’re closing hospitals, we’re closing wards, we’re closing so many because the states want to save money. We have to get back into looking at what’s causing it. The guns don’t pull the trigger. It’s the people that pull the trigger and we have to find out what is going on.


TRUMP: We have to protect our Second Amendment and you cannot do this and certainly what Barack Obama was doing with the executive order. He doesn’t want to get people together, the old-fashioned way, where you get Congress. You get the Congress, you get the Senate, you get together, you do legislation. He just writes out an executive order. Not supposed to happen that way. [Fox Business Channel, Fox Business Republican Debate, 1/14/16; The Washington Post, 1/14/16]


To read more about conservative falsehoods about Obama’s executive actions on gun violence, click here.

Trump Also Spoke About “Gun-Free Zones” During CNBC’s October 28 Debate. Speaking for 1 minute and 15 seconds, Trump claimed “gun-free zones” are “target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill” and pushed the falsehood that mass shooters choose locations for their crimes based on whether guns can be carried there:

CARL QUINTANILLA: Mr. Trump, you’ve said you have a special permit to carry a gun in New York.


QUINTANILLA: After the Oregon mass shooting on October 1st, you said, “By the way, it was a gun-free zone. If you had a couple of teachers with guns, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.”

TRUMP: Or somebody else. Right.

QUINTANILLA: Would you feel more comfortable if your employees brought guns to work?

TRUMP: Yes, I might feel more comfortable. I would say that I would and I have a permit, which is very unusual in New York -- a permit to carry. And I do carry on occasion, sometimes a lot. But I like to be unpredictable so that people don’t know exactly…


QUINTANILLA: Are you carrying one now?



TRUMP: By the way, unlike our country where we’re totally predictable and the enemy, whether it’s ISIS or anybody else, they know exactly what we’re doing because we have the wrong leadership.


TRUMP: But I feel that the gun-free zones and, you know, when you say that, that’s target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill. That’s target. They look around for gun-free zones. You know, we could give you another example -- the Marines, the Army, these wonderful six soldiers that were killed. Two of them were among the most highly decorated -- they weren’t allowed on a military base to have guns. And somebody walked in and shot them, killed them. If they had guns, he wouldn’t be around very long. I can tell you, there wouldn’t have been much damage. So, I think gun-free zones are a catastrophe. They’re a feeding frenzy for sick people.

QUINTANILLA: We called a few Trump resorts, a few Trump properties that — that do not allow guns with or without a permit. Would you change those policies?

TRUMP: I would change them. I would change them. [CNBC, CNBC Republican Debate, 10/28/15; Time, 10/28/15]

To read about the actual rationale of mass shooters in picking their targets, click here.

Guns Have Been A Flashpoint Throughout The Trump Campaign

Trump: If Clinton “Gets To Pick Her Judges, Nothing You Can Do, Folks. Although The Second Amendment People, Maybe There Is.” During an August 9 rally, Trump said “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.” The remark was interpreted as a call for a violent overthrow of the government if Clinton were to be elected and make nominations to the Supreme Court or as a call for her or her nominees’ assassination. The Trump campaign denied that Trump had referenced political violence, although the Secret Service spoke to the candidate about his remarks. Media figures across the political spectrum slammed Trump’s remark. Conservative writer Ben Howe tweeted, “What's a little assassination threat between friends?” and conservative New York Post columnist John Podhoretz wrote, “So he made a joke about her getting shot. Big deal. WHAT?????????” [, 8/9/16;, 8/10/16; Media Matters, 8/9/16]

Trump Called For Clinton’s Secret Service Protection To Immediately “Disarm” So We Can “See What Happens To Her.” The New York Times reported that on September 17 Trump “once again raised the specter of violence against Hillary Clinton” when he said at a rally, “I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. I think they should disarm immediately. What do you think, yes? Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, O.K. It’ll be very dangerous.” Trump’s claim echoes a common talking point from the National Rifle Association, which has said in an anti-Clinton campaign ad that Clinton has been “protected by armed guards for 30 years, but she doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.” The talking point, however, is based on a falsehood. Clinton would be a hypocrite for having armed security only if she opposed gun ownership by law-abiding Americans, which she does not. [The New York Times, 9/17/16; Media Matters, 8/1/16; Media Matters, 8/10/16; Media Matters, 9/20/16]

At Campaign Rally, Trump Glibly Discussed Gun Violence: “I Could Stand In The Middle Of 5th Avenue And Shoot Somebody And I Wouldn't Lose Voters.” [, 2/23/16]

The Trump Campaign Featured NRA Board Member Ted Nugent In An Ad Even Though Earlier This Year Nugent Called For Clinton To Be Hanged. A September 18 Trump campaign video about the Second Amendment and hunting included an appearance by Nugent, who claimed Clinton “will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American.” Nugent, who has endorsed Trump for president, this year has called for Clinton to be hanged for treason and promoted a fake video of her being shot. In an August post on his Facebook page calling for people to vote for Trump, Nugent termed Clinton a “lying hypocrite bitch.” He has also called the former secretary of state a “toxic cunt.” In a viral 2007 concert video, an assault-rifle-wielding Nugent called Clinton a “worthless bitch” and said that she should “ride” on his machine gun. Nugent also has a long history of making racist and other inflammatory commentary. In 2016 alone, Nugent has promoted anti-Semitic content, used a racial slur against a Latino critic, promoted misogynist reasons why guns are better than women, shared a racist meme advertising the fake moving company “2 niggers and a stolen truck,” and smeared Minnesota police shooting victim Philando Castile as a criminal. In 2015, Nugent devoted an entire column to praising the use of the word “nigger,” even in a racist context. [Donald J. Trump for President via Youtube, 9/18/16; Media Matters, 9/19/16]

PolitiFact Has Frequently Rated Trump’s Repeated Claim That Clinton “Wants To Abolish The Second Amendment” False. In May, PolitiFact gave a “false” rating to Trump’s claim that “Hillary Clinton wants to take your guns away, and she wants to abolish the Second Amendment." PolitiFact wrote, “We found no evidence that Clinton has ever advocated for repealing or abolishing the Second Amendment” and that “the bulk of Clinton’s comments suggest the opposite. She has repeatedly said she wants to protect the right to bear arms while enacting measures to prevent gun violence.” When Trump tweaked his claim to say Clinton “wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” PolitiFact again rated his claim “false.” [PolitiFact, 5/11/16; PolitiFact, 7/21/16]

Trump Claimed That “If You Had Guns On The Other Side” During The Pulse Nightclub Massacre, Tragedy Would Have Been Averted -- Even Though The Facts Of The Shooting Contradicted His Claim. Following the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, that claimed 49 lives and injured scores more, Trump said on CNN, “If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had. If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him ... right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having.” According to the New York Daily News, Trump ignored “the CNN anchor’s point that there was, in fact, an armed off-duty police officer at the club at the time of the shooting.” Indeed, according to The New York Times, “Multiple shots were reported at the nightclub. An off-duty officer working there responded and exchanged fire with the gunman near one of the entrances.” Trump’s claim that clubgoers should have carried guns to confront the gunman was also criticized because of widespread disapproval of people drinking alcohol while carrying guns. Trump later said that he meant “that if, within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns, I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees.” ABC News noted that statement “contradicts” his “previous stance.” [New York Daily News, 6/13/16; The New York Times, 6/12/16; ABC News, 6/20/16]  

Posted In
Guns, Justice & Civil Liberties, Elections
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton
Guns, National Rifle Association, Debate Guide
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