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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

TV Ad Distorts Trump’s Gun Position

An ad from an anti-Donald Trump super PAC uses a partial quote from Trump to distort his position on gun control.

What is the Republican front-runner’s position on guns, the ad asks, and then cuts to a video of Trump saying, “I hate the concept of guns. I’m not in favor of it.” The full quote from Trump in that same interview makes clear that Trump not only supports the right to own guns, but he also owns several himself.

The ad comes from Our Principles PAC, which was founded by Katie Packer, the deputy campaign manager of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. For months, the super PAC has been using Trump’s own words to attack him on issues such as health care and abortion.

But in the latest ad, called “Know,” the PAC shortens Trump’s words in a misleading way.

The ad’s narrator asks, “How much do we really know about Donald Trump?” The ad then mentions several issues — health care, gun control and abortion — and follows each with video snippets from Trump. But the ad’s use of a partial quote to illustrate Trump’s views “on gun control” misconstrues what Trump said in a Nov. 18, 1999, interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

In the interview, a man identified as “an avid outdoorsman from upstate New York” asked Trump whether he would uphold the constitutional right to bear arms. Trump, who at the time was considering running for president, said he hates “the concept of guns,” but “bad guys” have them, “[s]o I am in favor of the ability to have a gun.”

Question: Mr. Trump, I’m an avid outdoorsman from upstate New York where your new golf courses are going. I’m very proud of my Second Amendment right to bear arms. If you’re elected, would you uphold this right, or do you see it as a societal ill?

Trump: Well, I think you have to have the right to have a gun. Now, I hate the concept of guns, I’m not in favor of it, except for one thing: the bad guys are going to have them. So …

Matthews: Do you have a gun?

Trump: I do.

Matthews: Do you keep it near you?

Trump: Depending on where I am, yes, I have it in different—I actually have a couple of guns. And I believe you need it.

You know what, if everybody would just give it up, the bad ones, the good ones and everybody in the middle, no guns, I love it — but it’s not going to happen. The good ones, you go into a licensing — the good ones are going to — are they going to do everything by the book? They get rid of the guns. So now the good folks are sitting out there with no protection, and the bad guys have the guns. I don’t like that. So I am in favor of the ability to have a gun.

So while the ad leaves the impression that Trump opposes gun ownership, his full answer makes clear that — just the opposite — he supports the right to own guns. In fact, he said he has a couple of guns himself.

The small print in the ad does not cite the MSNBC interview, but rather Trump’s 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” which includes the lines (on page 102), “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within 72-hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”

Trump has since reversed his position on an assault weapons ban. A position paper on his campaign website says that gun bans have been a “total failure” and that “[l]aw-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice.”

Trump position paper: Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like “assault weapons”, “military-style weapons” and “high capacity magazines” to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.

As for the ad’s use of Trump’s quote on abortion, that’s also out of step with Trump’s current position. Trump did say in an interview with Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Oct. 24, 1999, that he would not ban partial birth abortion and that “I am pro-choice in every respect.”

But Trump announced during a Feb. 10, 2011, Conservative Political Action Conference speech, “I’m pro-life.” (He also stated, “I’m against gun control.”) In an April 2011 interview with the Christian CBN News’ David Brody, Trump talked about the personal experience that led him to change his view on abortion rights.

During the campaign, Trump has said that he would nominate anti-abortion jurists to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and that he opposes all abortions with the exceptions of cases involving rape, incest or “if the mother is going to die.”

“And, you know, I’m pro-life,” Trump said on “Meet the Press” in August 2015. “And I was begrudgingly the other way. But I have to say when those questions were asked, and that was many, many years ago, I wasn’t a politician.”