Hillary Clinton has mostly steered clear of contentious domestic political issues in recent years, but on Tuesday, she said gun laws need to be reined in.
Speaking at a National Council for Behavioral Health conference outside of Washington, Clinton was asked about the role guns play in suicides. While Clinton said she supports Second Amendment rights, she added that there needs to be a proper trade-off between safety and freedom, and that things have swung too far toward the latter.
"I think again we're way out of balance. We've got to rein in what has become almost an article of faith that almost anybody can have a gun anywhere at any time. And I don't believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people," she said.
She referred to recent high-profile incidents of minor disputes in movie theaters or parking lots that escalated into lethal shootings, saying, "That's what happens in the countries I've visited that have no rule of law."
She decried new laws proliferating across the country that allow people to carry weapons in churches, bars, and other public places, saying that they will only lead to more deadly violence that could otherwise be avoided. "At the rate we're going, we're going to have so many people with guns," she continued, "in settings where … [they] decide they have a perfect right to defend themselves against the gum chewer or the cell-phone talker."
When she ran for president in 2008, Clinton spoke about the need for "balance" in gun laws, but she has been able to avoid the issue since it dominated the national political debate after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in late 2012. She was secretary of State at the time of the massacre, a position that kept her out of domestic politics. Early last year, she became a private citizen and thus had no obligation to speak out on issues she chose not to address.
As president, her husband, Bill Clinton, fought hard to implement new gun-control laws in the 1990s, which, as Hillary Clinton acknowledged Tuesday, cost him politically.
At the conference of mental health professionals, Clinton also spoke personally about suicide, saying she has known several people who took their own lives. She referred, but not by name, to Vince Foster, the Clinton White House lawyer whose suicide sparked right-wing conspiracy theories, saying she wishes she and others around him had been better able to spot warning signs.
Clinton also chose to touch on another domestic political issue when she scrutinized conservatives' calls to cut taxes on the wealthy in the hopes of creating more jobs. "What's the evidence for that? Really?" she said, urging that the country employ a more empirical approach to public policy.
The former first lady also seemed to take a shot at tea-party Republicans, though she did not mention them by name. "Don't vote for someone who proudly says they will never compromise," she told the audience. And "don't give them any money. Find someone in your party who's reasonable ... who's not going to Washington proudly to destroy what our Founders built."
Clinton also spoke candidly and at length about what goes into a decision to run for office. She said there are real "costs" in terms of privacy that she is currently mulling. "Obviously I'm thinking about that right now," she said. "Stay tuned."
This article appears in the May 7, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.