Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are focusing heavily on guns, believing the issue will energize base voters in their respective parties and help them capitalize on their front-runner status as they fight to take the White House in 2016, reports The Hill. Clinton has openly mulled a national gun buyback program and has sought to draw a distinction between herself and liberal rival Bernie Sanders, who has opposed some of the gun control measures championed by the left. Trump, having reversed course on his past positions, has accused President Obama of plotting to confiscate Americans' guns and is seeking to convince skeptical conservatives that he can be trusted on the issue. Both candidates believe they'll benefit from focusing on the hot-button topic in the wake of mass shootings in Oregon and South Carolina that have re-energized activists on both sides.
“You're seeing this injected into the campaigns in a way I don't think we've seen before,” said Mark Prentice of Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control group started by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Az.) and her husband, Mark Kelly. That's especially true on the Democratic side: An analysis by The Trace found that there were more mentions of the words “gun” and “guns” at the first Democratic presidential debate this month than in all 14 Democratic debates in 2007, which took place after the Virginia Tech mass shooting, the worst in U.S. history. Clinton has pledged to take executive actions to close loopholes that allow for gun purchases online and at gun shows without background checks and has vowed to close the “Charleston Loophole,” named after the South Carolina shooting, in which the gunman was able to obtain a weapon because his background check wasn't completed within three days.