Common Sense for Seniors staff have promised to survey the websites of the presidential candidates to see what they have to say about issues affecting seniors. That project is still underway, but we’ve been diverted by the reaction of the candidates to President Obama’s gun regulation speech on January 5.
In our draft 2016 political vision statement, we said that common-sense seniors will be looking for candidates who favor common-sense gun laws. In his speech — coincidentally entitled “Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform,” — the President announced measures to tighten background checks in order to keep convicted felons and people with mental health problems from purchasing guns on the internet and at gun shows. He’ll add ATF agents to speed up the background check process and increase federal spending on mental health, That all sounds like common sense to us. We’ll be safer if felons and the mentally ill have a harder time purchasing weapons, and so will our loved ones.
Three candidates, all Democrats, share this view. Bernie Sanders said “As president, I will continue these executive orders because it’s past time to end the moral outrage of Aurora, and Newtown and Charleston.” Hillary Clinton tweeted “Thank you, @POTUS, for taking a crucial step forward on gun violence. Our next president has to build on that progress—not rip it away.” Martin O’Malley tweeted his support as well, with a link to seven additional measures he would take.
On the Republican side, the candidates greeted the speech with outrage and a considerable degree of misrepresentation of what the President had actually said.
The reaction of Ted Cruz was perhaps the most over-the-top. “We don’t beat the bad guys by takin’ away our guns,” he said. “We beat the bad guys by using our guns.” (BBC Evening News.) The Cruz campaign team set up a website, “Obama Wants Your Guns,” featuring a photoshopped picture of the President dressed as a member of a SWAT team. This despite the fact that the President had explicitly endorsed the Second Amendment as guaranteeing a right to bear arms, adding “this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns. You pass a background check; you purchase a firearm.”
Marco Rubio said “this president is obsessed with undermining the Constitution in general, but the Second Amendment in particular.” Rubio was backed by Jeb Bush, who charged the President with “utter disregard for the Second Amendment.” Carly Fiorina weighed in on Twitter: “Another lawless, unconstitutional overreach.” Donald Trump pledged that “They’re not going to take your guns away, folks,” but “They’re trying.” Mike Huckabee amped up the bravado with “”I will never bow down and surrender to Obama’s unconstitutional, radical, anti-gun agenda.” Even before the President’s speech, Chris Christie said that Obama was acting like a “petulant child” in planning another “illegal executive action.” “He wants to act as a king, as if he’s a dictator,” Christie charged, adding that the President’s measures would be “stricken” when he becomes President.
The Republican over-reaction to the President’s modest reforms suggests a lack of judgement that should caution seniors against trusting any of the party’s candidates with the highest office in the land. That concern extends to Republican candidates for the House of Representatives. Before the President had finished his remarks, Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement alleging that “From day one, the President has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.” Can the Speaker truly believe that gun purchases by convicted felons and the mentally ill are “safe and legal?”
On the issue of of gun safety, Republican candidates are not responding to the common-sense interests of seniors. We’ll be taking a look at other issues in future posts.