Email: Clinton's 'Forceful' Gun Position Had Some Democratic Caucus Members 'Freaking Out'

Internal emails label her gun control stance as most aggressive ever

Hillary Clinton
October 19, 2016

Hillary Clinton's "forceful" stance in favor of gun control caused some members of the Democratic Caucus to freak out, an email exchange published Wednesday shows.

Campaign staffers and outside strategists discussed the best way to approach issues such as President Obama's handling of foreign policy, Wall Street, and gun control during a back and forth over an internal strategy memo in December 2015. Much of the conversation focused on how Clinton could differentiate herself from Obama in ways that would be advantageous to the campaign. One consultant pointed out during the exchange that Clinton was already "more forceful on guns/gun lobby than any other person who ever seriously ran for president" and some unnamed Democratic Caucus members were "freaking out about it."

"I think the one thing missing from this very good strategic memo is positioning vis a vis [sic] Obama," Clinton campaign chair John Podesta wrote. "We have more or less hugged him on economics, health care, and Wall Street. We have differentiated on Syria, but have not criticized. I think the question going into this debate is as much about his personal style as it is specific plans. I think there is a perception that he's slouching into the San Bernadino [sic] events that the Republicans are successfully exploiting that. That may be OBE by the debate, but we need to figure out what her posture is on direct questions about the president's performance."

Karen Dunn, a D.C. lawyer and Clinton debate preparation strategist, told Podesta that Clinton was worried she was embracing President Obama too strongly on some issues.

"This is a great point," Dunn said. "After the last debate, she expressed considerable discomfort with where she feels she has to be with Obama on FP (Jake will know more than I do but I think this was a contributing force to some of the paralysis we saw). One hypothesis is that she has earned a lot of room through hugging on the domestic that it should free her on foreign policy/national security."

Dunn said that since Clinton and Obama were so close on policy, stylistic differences between the two would be important.

"And frankly, since she will be tied to him on much of the policy, stylistic differences may be our friend," she said.

Dunn then pointed to gun control as one key area of difference.

"Already, she has been more forceful on guns/gun lobby than any other person who ever seriously ran for president," Dunn said.

Dunn added that she recalled Clinton saying "certain members of the dem caucus were freaking out about" her aggressive gun control stance.

Clinton has supported an "assault weapons" ban and expansion of background checks to gun sales between private parties. She has praised Australia's mandatory gun buyback program as a "good example" and something that is "worth considering" in the United States, something no other major party candidate had previously done. She also told donors the Supreme Court is "wrong" on the Second Amendment, calling into question the landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which affirmed that the Constitution guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms.

The December 2015 email exchange came just a month after the campaign's communications director worried her aggressive stance on gun control would hurt the campaign in southern states. Another batch of hacked emails showed her staff worrying about "blowback" from voters if she attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I., Vt.) less stringent gun control positions too harshly. Other emails include Clinton staffers deciding not to "fully embrace" New York's 2013 gun control law because parts of it were too "controversial."

WikiLeaks published the emails in question. The director of national intelligence and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security have accused 'Russia's senior-most officials" of hacking and leaking emails posted to WikiLeaks and other sites to influence the 2016 election.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.