I believe I’ve espied a theme for the Democrats’ campaign strategy as the midterms hit the homestretch. It’s basically this: Get former presidents to talk about things they don’t really know about.
Barack Obama, for instance, made scads of headlines when he took credit for the Trump administration’s economy. Considerably fewer headlines were made when one of Trump’s chief numbers guys pretty much debunked this theory with, well, numbers.
And now, Bill Clinton is getting in on the act. In the wake of Wednesday’s shootings in Bakersfield, California, that left six dead, including the gunman, Clinton tweeted his support for an “assault weapons ban” like the one he signed during his presidency.
Aside from being nakedly opportunist, there was a serious problem with all of this. The shooter, according to The Associated Press, used a handgun.
First, here’s the tweet, which was sent out one day after the shootings.
Twenty-four years ago, I signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban into law. It, along with other policies, led to a 33-year low in the murder rate. We’ve done it before—we should do it again.
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) September 13, 2018
“Twenty-four years ago, I signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban into law,” Clinton’s tweet read.
“It, along with other policies, led to a 33-year low in the murder rate. We’ve done it before — we should do it again.”
Now, the message here was obvious. No, it didn’t mention the Bakersfield shooting. It didn’t have to; he tweeted this the day after, as all of the news networks discussed the shooting repeatedly. It’s hardly even subtext so much as text.
And to make things even worse, the so-called assault weapons ban wouldn’t have stopped a thing.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, the shooting in California was carried out by a man with a revolver who forced his ex-wife to drive to a trucking company in East Bakersfield. When it was over, five innocent people — including the ex-wife — were dead. The gunman committed suicide.
Neither the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban nor any proposed ban on so-called “assault weapons” or high-capacity magazines would have helped in this case. The gunman in this case used a revolver, which is the furthest thing from what these laws were designed to address.
Furthermore, as Reason Magazine pointed out, a 2013 study by the National Institute of Justice found that Clinton’s claim about mass shootings was ambiguous at best.
“We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence,” the study said of the ban, which was in place from 1994 until 2004.
“Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
Gun control has emerged as one of the key issues for Democrats this campaign season. Even Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat challenging Sen. Ted Cruz in Second Amendment-friendly Texas, has embraced it, using the typical “weapons of war” rhetoric, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.
Bill Clinton may not be out on the campaign trail like Barack Obama, which is probably unsurprising considering his sudden place in the #MeToo debate. That being said, he’s still trying to keep his legacy alive, claiming yet again that gun-grabbing will prevent mass shootings.
The facts — either in this case or in general — don’t bear that out.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.