Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Martin O'Malley talking at the New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate. (AP) Martin O'Malley talking at the New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate. (AP)

Martin O'Malley talking at the New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate. (AP)

Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll December 20, 2015

Fact-checking O'Malley's claim that Hillary Clinton flips on gun issues 'every election'

Hillary Clinton goes wherever the wind blows on gun control, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said at a Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire.

"Secretary Clinton changes her position on this every election year, it seems, having one position in 2000 and then campaigning against President (Barack) Obama and saying we don't need federal standards," O’Malley said at the Dec. 19, 2015, debate hosted by ABC News.

In the wake of several mass shootings this year, Clinton has pushed for stronger federal gun control, so we decided to look back and see if O’Malley is correct that she had a different position on the issue in the past. O’Malley’s campaign sent us several news articles detailing Clinton’s stance on guns.


From the time she was first lady through her 2000 Senate run in New York, Clinton supported strict federal gun control measures.

In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton signed into law the Brady bill, which mandated federal background checks and a waiting period for gun purchases, as well as an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. As first lady, Hillary Clinton supported these measures.

"The first step is to take weapons off the streets and to put more police on them," she wrote in her 1996 book It Takes a Village. "Since (the Brady bill) was enacted, more than 40,000 people with criminal records have been prevented from buying guns."

Following the Columbine, Colo., school shooting in April 1999, Clinton pushed for more gun control, including a proposal to raise the legal age to own a handgun from 18 to 21.

And during her 2000 Senate run, Clinton endorsed gun registration, photo licenses for gun owners and ballistic fingerprinting.

Clinton continued to push for more gun control while serving as the senator from New York, but in her 2008 presidential run, she seemed to back off a bit.


Positioning herself to the right of then-Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton spoke throughout the campaign about the importance of guns to American culture while still defending Bill Clinton’s record on gun control.

"You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl," she said at a town hall in 2008.

Featured Fact-check

At a 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Clinton gave an affirmative "yes" that she was backing off her 2000 call for a national licensing and registration plan because it would "preempt" cities and states’ initiatives. But she also called for reinstating the assault weapons ban and better background checks for potential gun purchasers.

Clinton responded to another question about her position on a gun registry at a debate in Philadelphia.

"What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana," she said, explaining her reason to abandon the proposal. "So, for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they're going to try to impose, I think doesn't make sense."

"I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns," she went on to say later in the debate. "But I also believe that most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many years across our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out of the wrong hands."

While Clinton clearly was no longer in favor of a gun registry out of professed concern for individual states’ needs, she did not wholly reject all federal gun laws.


More so than in her 2008 campaign, Clinton has been forceful and impassioned about gun control this cycle, pushing for universal background checks, closing the so-called gun show loophole, and a bill that aims to stop people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns, among several other measures.

"This epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries," she said in a recent campaign ad. "We’re better than this. We need to close the loopholes and support universal background checks. How many people have to die before we actually act? Before we come together as a nation?"

Clinton’s list of the gun control measures she would support does not, though, include the gun licensing and registration program she advocated for in 2000 but backed off of in 2008.

In sum, O’Malley does have a point that Clinton’s rhetoric and her position on a few specific gun control measures shifted from 2000 to 2008, and then from 2008 to 2015. But in her 2008 campaign, she was not really against all "federal standards" because she still called for some federal gun control measures, such as reinstating the assault weapons ban.

Our ruling

O’Malley "Secretary Clinton changes her position on (gun issues) every election year, it seems, having one position in 2000 and then campaigning against President Obama and saying we don't need federal standards."

In 2000, in the wake of the Columbine school shooting, Clinton was emphatic about her support for gun control. In 2008, she dropped her support for a gun license and registration proposal and positioned herself to the right of her major opponent, Obama. While Clinton also advocated for leaving some gun control to the states, she still advocated for federal gun control efforts, and she never said "we don’t need federal standards."

In 2015, Clinton has been more forceful with her support for gun control than she was in 2008 -- closer to her rhetoric in 2000.

O’Malley has a point that Clinton’s positioning on gun control has shifted between election cycles, but it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as he made it out to be. We rate his claim Half True.

Our Sources

ABC News, Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Dec. 19, 2015

Washington Post, "Hillary Clinton is the new standard-bearer for gun control. So let’s look at her record," Aug. 27, 2015

New York Times, "New Hillary Clinton TV Ad Focuses on One Topic: Gun Violence," Nov. 3, 2015

New York Times, "Mrs. Clinton Backs Gun-Control Initiatives," May 10, 2000

New York Times, "Hillary Clinton Appeals For Gun Control Lobbying," May 9, 1999

Buzzfeed, "That Time Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Attacked Obama In 2008 For Flip-Flopping On Guns," Oct. 12, 2015

Hillary for America, "It is past time we act on gun violence," accessed Dec. 19, 2015

CNN, "Clinton touts her experience with guns," April 12, 2008

On the Issues, "Hillary Clinton on gun Control," Dec. 8, 2015

Email interview, O’Malley spokesperson Haley Morris, Dec. 19, 2015

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Lauren Carroll

Fact-checking O'Malley's claim that Hillary Clinton flips on gun issues 'every election'

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up