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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske October 17, 2016

NRA weakly claims that Clinton said gun confiscation is 'worth considering'

A National Rifle Association flier shows the jaws of a crane dumping hundreds of rifles into a landfill.

"What did Hillary Clinton say when she was asked about gun confiscation in America?" it asks in capital letters.

The flier answers the question with this Clinton quote: "I think it would be worth considering doing it on a national level, if that can be arranged." Next to the quote is a photo of a strident-looking Clinton speaking into a microphone.

We examined whether Clinton really did say that U.S. gun confiscation is "worth considering."

The flier was issued by the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. It says Clinton made the statement during a town hall campaign event in Keene, N.H., on Oct 16, 2015. She was asked whether she’d support a national gun buyback program similar to one Australia instituted in 1996 after a mass shooting in Tasmania left 35 dead.

A month later, Australia banned semi-automatic and self-loading rifles as well as shotguns. The government offered a one-year grace period during which it would buy back the firearms at fair-market prices. After that, people possessing the weapons would subject to strict penalties.

The buyback program resulted in more than 640,000 prohibited weapons being turned in - roughly one-fifth of all the guns then estimated to be in Australia.

Now, let’s go back to the New Hampshire town hall meeting. A tape shows a man asked Clinton this question: "Australia managed to take away tens of thousands - millions - of handguns and in one year they were all gone. Can we do that and why? If we can’t, why not? (The questioner was wrong in saying the buyback pertained to handguns; it didn’t.)

Clinton replied that several nations have tightened their gun laws after experiencing mass shootings.

"In the Australian example, as I recall, that was a buyback program," she said. "The Australian government, as part of trying to clamp down on the availability of automatic weapons, offered a good price for buying hundreds of thousands of guns and then they basically clamped down going forward in terms of, you know, more of a background check, more of a permitting approach.

"But they believed, and I think the evidence supports them, that by offering to buy back those guns they were able to, you know, curtail the supply and set a different standard for gun purchases in the future."

"Now (U.S.) communities have done that; communities have done gun buyback programs. But I think it would be worth considering doing that on the national level if that could be arranged."

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Clinton mentioned "cash for clunkers," the nickname of a 2009 voluntary program in which the U.S. government briefly offered payments to people wishing to trade in old, gas-guzzling vehicles.

"So I think that’s worth considering," Clinton said. "I don’t know enough details to tell you how we would do it or how it would work. But certainly, the Australian example is worth considering."

The NRA and other pro-gun groups instantly seized on Clinton’s comment, saying the buyback program Clinton lauded is tantamount to a confiscation program, because it backed many gun owners into a corner: They either could sell their firearms to the government or risk prosecution for keeping them. It was, the NRA says, "an offer gun owners could not refuse."

Three days after the New Hampshire event, the Clinton campaign said the candidate opposes gun confiscation and accused the NRA of distorting her comments.

"Of course Hillary does not support national mandatory gun buyback programs, including those modeled after Australia's program," spokesman Josh Schwerin wrote to us in an email. "She was discussing voluntary buyback programs, which are drastically different than what occurred in Australia and are regularly run by cities across the America."

We asked the NRA if it had any other evidence that it believes shows Clinton is open to gun confiscation. A spokeswoman for the gun group’s lobbying arm questioned whether that was "relevant" to our fact-check and didn’t provide an answer.

Our ruling

The NRA says that when Clinton was asked about gun confiscation, she said "I think it would be worth doing it on a national level, if that can be arranged."

Clinton made that statement last year at a New Hampshire campaign stop, when she was asked a vague question about an Australian program that gave gun owners one year to sell certain firearms to the government before those weapons became illegal. She left the NRA some room.

But the NRA stretches her words to an almost unrecognizable form. Clinton focused her comments on voluntary buyback programs similar to those some U.S. communities have instituted for guns and the federal "cash-for-clunkers" program.

She was ambiguous about how a U.S. guns buyback program might be structured, saying "I don’t know enough details to tell you how we would do it or how it would work." And her campaign since has said she opposes gun confiscation.

So there’s an element of truth to the NRA’s statement, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. That makes it Mostly False.

Our Sources

NRA, Mailer on Hillary Clinton, Oct. 9, 2016.

C-SPAN, Hillary Clinton comments in Keene, N.H., Oct. 16, 2015., "Trump distorts Clinton’s gun stance," May 10, 2016.

Library of Congress, "Firearms-control legislation and policy: Australia," February 2013.

CNN, "NRA slams Hillary Clinton, claims she supports confiscating guns," Oct. 16, 2015.

The Washington Post, "Here’s the deal with the Australian gun control law that Obama is talking about," June 23, 2015.

Vox, "Australia confiscated 650,000 guns. Murders and suicides plummeted." June 13, 2016.

Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, "Handgun ownership facts in Australia," Sept. 17, 2007.

Clinton-Kaine website, "Gun violence prevention," accessed Oct. 12, 2016

The Hill, "Clinton aide: Hillary not in favor of gun confiscation,"  Oct. 19, 2015.

RealClear Politics, "Hillary Clinton and gun buybacks," Oct. 25, 2015.

NBC News, "Port Arthur Massacre: The shooting spree that changed Australia’s gun laws," April 28, 2016.

Emails from Catherine Mortensen, media liaison for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Oct. 12, 2016.

Email from Josh Schwerin, spokesman for the Clinton-Kaine campaign, Oct. 13, 2016.

Australian Police Ministers’ Council, Resolutions passed during a special firearms meeting, May 10, 1996.

Office of Australia’s prime minister, Statement on gun control, May 10, 1996.

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NRA weakly claims that Clinton said gun confiscation is 'worth considering'

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