Rudy Giuliani Completely Flip-Flops on Gun Control But That’s Not Even The Real Problem


In the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon last week, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani predictably joined other Republicans in slamming President Obama for his impassioned remarks on the need to take political action on gun control. In an appearance on Fox and Friends Friday morning, Giuliani lamented poor, ignorant Barack Obama’s take on how to prevent gun violence:

“I think the President has very little knowledge of what causes crime or how to reduce crime. The reality is gun control laws control the behavior of legitimate people. People who rob stores, people who rob banks and people who are insane and want to go ahead and murder people don’t follow gun control laws. You and i follow them. So it controls the behavior of people who can be regulated. Take New York and Chicago. Chicago has 2.5 times the murders of New York. Same gun control laws. Why? Because in New York, at least up until now, there was a much more aggressive stop and frisk policy. Which meant we took the guns.”

Giuliani’s diatribe has led to criticism that he has flip-flopped on gun control, which happens every time Giuliani opens his yap on the subject. The New York Daily News has composed a supercut of Rudy’s past support for gun control, and pointedly concludes that “Giuliani was once a man of principled fiber. No more.”

That Rudy Giuliani has changed his tune on guns is not in dispute, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. There’s one particular detail that crops up over and over, one which present-day Rudy seems to have forgotten.

In the full Face the Nation interview following Giuliani’s 1993 election as mayor, a more enlightened Rudy handles pretty much every objection that the pro-gun crowd raises (and as an added bonus, refers to 9mm handguns as “automatic weapons”), and even talks about gun control as a way to reduce suicides:

In 1995, Giuliani criticized the Republican party and the NRA, and argued for an assault weapons ban:

In 1997, Giuliani told CBS Evening News that the 2nd Amendment is an “overstated argument” against gun control, and likened gun ownership to the regulation of automobiles:

In a February 2000 Meet the Press interview, Giuliani even agreed with then-President Bill Clinton about gun registrations, and again used the automobile argument:

There are two problems with the flip-flopper criticism, the first of which is characteristic of most such arguments. If Rudy were flipping the other way, from gun-nut to reasonable person, The Daily News would be praising him for having seen the light, and so would I. Frankly, I’m surprised that Giuliani himself doesn’t make a bigger deal of his conversion, as a way to lend credibility to his current position. That’s a favored tactic among apostates of every stripe.

Substantively, Giuliani also has several fig leaves worth of cover to explain that conversion. There’s the ever-popular “9/11 changed everything” dodge, which covers a multitude of conservative derp sins. More recently, Giuliani can also point to the Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision to explain some of his policy shifts. That decision gave wiggle room on both sides by defining the Second Amendment as an individual right, but also seeming to affirm the legality of many gun control laws.

But there’s one part of Giuliani’s gun control argument that neither 9/11 nor Heller could have changed, and it’s one that he spoke about often in the clips the Daily News cherry-picked. Here’s the one detail that Giuliani consistently referenced, but which he now seems to have completely forgotten:

Ninety-five percent of the shootings in New York City occur with guns from outside of the city of New York, and they’re really victimizing us at this point with the craziness of this ‘you can buy any gun you want, anyplace you want, you wait five days…’”

I’ve written extensively about the importance of this fact, but I’ve never heard it explained quite as concisely as it was by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani when he announced he was suing gun manufacturers:

“Deliberately manufacturing many more firearms than can be bought for the legitimate purposes of hunting and law enforcement, deliberately undermining New York City’s gun control laws by flooding markets with looser gun laws with firearms that the manufacturers know are destined to be illegally resold in New York City…”

As Rudy 2000 so ably explains, strong gun laws don’t do any good if you’re surrounded by states and municipalities with weak gun laws. That’s why present-day Rudy ignores that fact, so that he can make his specious argument about Chicago, which is surrounded by weak state and local gun laws, and New York City, which is surrounded by states with the toughest gun laws in the country.

Rudy 2000 understood how weak or nonexistent state and federal gun laws undermine the safety of citizens everywhere, but it wasn’t 9/11 or Heller that began to crack his resolve. In 2007, Giuliani edged toward a more GOP base-palatable states’ rights argument when he told Larry King that he understands the Second Amendment:

“I also understand the second amendment. I understand the right to bear arms. I think that a lot of these things have to be resolved on a state by state basis. And I used say often when I was the mayor, it’s one thing for New York, it’s something different for Texas.”

Coincidentally, that’s the year Rudy mounted a presidential campaign. Unfortunately for Rudy, his new attitude still wasn’t enough for Republican debate audiences, who nearly booed him off the stage for suggesting that the government can perform background checks:

To me, this demonstrates that Rudy’s evolution on this subject is less than genuine, but that’s not really the issue. I don’t care that he flipped, and neither should anyone else. Rudy’s problem is that he’s wrong now, and that the argument he’s using has gained real currency in the mainstream media. Since the Oregon shooting, the argument that stronger gun laws can’t prevent these shootings have gotten louder and louder, while the rebuttals have gotten weaker.

One thing we keep hearing is that since the Oregon shooter apparently purchased his guns legally (a dodgy assertion in itself, given how long it’s taking to confirm even the most basic details about this shooting), stricter background checks and other laws could not have prevented this shooting. The logic of this claim is absurd on its face, like abandoning all blood tests because some illness evaded detection, but ironically, Rudy 2000 had the perfect solution for this, and the perfect answer for those who want to ignore guns in favor of mental health:

“My personal solution to it is that Congress pass a law that subjects gun ownership to the same licensing requirements that driving a car is subjected to. So that you have to get a license, pass a test, pass a physical test, pass a mental test, and then you can have a gun.”

As far as I’m concerned, Rudy Giuliani is welcome to flip-flop all he wants on this, or any other issue. It’s far more important to let people know that he’s wrong now than to ridicule him for having once been right.

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