Hillary Clinton fielded questions about guns and about the self-defense law known as “stand your ground” during a town hall event held in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Clinton did not present any specific proposals to beef up gun control laws. Instead, she repeated the common call for “common sense” legislation to expand universal background checks.
“I feel so strongly that we are way out of balance here,” Clinton told the woman who asked her about guns — an activist with the Nevada branch of the gun control group Moms Demand Action.
“I don’t see any conflict between the legitimate protection of Second Amendment rights and protecting people from gun violence from people who should never have guns in the first place,” Clinton said.
She used the example of the shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C. in June. She said that the shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, “should never have gotten that gun.”
“They were waiting on information, and three days went by, and under the rules he got to get the gun,” Clinton said, seemingly referring to the FBI’s failed background check of Roof.
FBI director James Comey admitted last month that Roof should have never been able to buy the gun he used in the shooting. He purchased it from a gun shop in April despite having a pending felony charge for drugs. The FBI failed to reject his background check and the gun sale was allowed to proceed.
Clinton also fielded a question from a man who asked what she would do about “stand your ground” — the laws on the books in many states that allow individuals to use deadly force without having to attempt to retreat if they are in fear for their life.
The laws came under scrutiny following the Feb. 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
Though Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, never attempted to make a “stand your ground” defense claim — he claimed he shot Martin in simple self-defense while the 17-year-old was on top of him beating him — the law became a focal point for many activists.
“I think we could do more at the federal level to work with states, work with law enforcement, work with communities, to point out that, yes, there is a role in extreme situations to defend yourself and defend your home,” Clinton said.
“But unfortunately what we’ve seen too much of in the last few years is a spate of people who have reached for a gun before they really figured out what was going on,” she added. “They’ve been much too eager to use that gun. We’ve seen it with policing, and we’ve seen it with civilians.”
Clinton blamed the media for contributing to a rise in the “level of fear and insecurity” among the public.
“Therefore they get on, what we would say is a trigger’s edge, and they go for their guns and say ‘why is this happening, and what more can we do,'” Clinton said.
“I just think a lot of these ‘stand your ground’ laws need to be re-written so that, yes, if somebody is breaking into your home and you are in eminent danger, or you go to your door and you see something that is deeply concerning, well first thing you should do is call 911.”
Pointing to the Trayvon Martin case, she said “that was absolutely hard for me to understand.”
She also mentioned the case of Jordan Davis, a black teenager who was shot at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla. in Nov. 2012. Davis’ killer, Michael Dunn, claimed he was standing his ground before shooting into a vehicle Davis was inside.
“I mean, what is going on there, that wasn’t stand your ground, that was just an overreaction,” Clinton said. “That was a kind of a knee-jerk reaction by somebody who had that gun.”