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Platform Check: Candidates Signal Support Of New Gun Restrictions

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The presidential race is a lot of times about stump speeches, polls and accusations. But it's also about ideas and policy.

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HILLARY CLINTON: We'll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants...

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DONALD TRUMP: We are going to build a great border wall.

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CLINTON: Wall Street, corporations and the super rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes...

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TRUMP: On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth.

SIEGEL: This is Platform Check, when we examine what the candidates say they'll do if they become president. Today, we look at gun policy. Donald Trump has more than once suggested that Hillary Clinton wants to take away people's right to bear arms. But during Monday's debate, the two candidates sounded awfully similar on one particular issue.

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CLINTON: We finally need to pass a prohibition on anyone who is on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy a gun in our country. If you're too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun.

SIEGEL: And then Trump responded.

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TRUMP: I agree with you. When a person is on a watch list or a no-fly list - and I have the endorsement of the NRA, which I'm very proud of. These are very, very good people, and they're protecting the Second Amendment. But I think we have to look very strongly at no-fly lists and watch lists.

SIEGEL: Here to break down the candidates' positions is UCLA law professor Adam Winkler. Professor Winkler, welcome to the program once again.

ADAM WINKLER: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: And on this issue of keeping guns out of the hands of people on the government's watch list, do the candidates in fact share the same view?

WINKLER: Well, it seems so at first. They both said they support some kind of no-buy list. However, the devil's in the details. Democrats and Republicans have supported a no-buy list. Where they've differed is over the degree of due process protections for gun owners who find themselves on that list.

Presumably, Donald Trump supports the Republican efforts that have been supported by the NRA, too. Part of the issue is Donald Trump just hasn't taken a position on any particular bill, so we don't really know (laughter).

SIEGEL: Let's take a broader look. As we heard Donald Trump say, he is supported by the NRA. What do we know about his proposals?

WINKLER: Well, if we look at his website, Donald Trump has said that he supports a national right to carry. That is to say he supports a federal law that would allow people with concealed-carry permits to carry those guns in any state in the nation. That would be a massive reform and would be a very significant change in America's gun policy.

SIEGEL: When speaking to supporters, Trump has suggested that Hillary Clinton wants to destroy the Second Amendment. She has never said that, but what does she say she'll do?

WINKLER: Well, Hillary Clinton is proposing many of the same reforms that President Obama has proposed - universal background checks, restrictions on military-style assault weapons and restrictions on high-capacity magazines. Unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, if she's elected president, she'll still have a Republican House that's unlikely to pass any of those bills.

SIEGEL: But you're saying her positions would be a continuation of President Obama's positions?

WINKLER: That's right. I think she has some new policies as well, but they're really just tinkering at the margins. The heart of her gun-policy agenda is pretty much the same as President Obama's.

SIEGEL: During Monday's debate, Donald Trump talked about making cities like Chicago safer and Hillary Clinton pointed out that violent crime has actually dropped over the past 25 years, but she still worries about it creeping up. Would either candidate's proposals, do you think, have an impact on violent crime?

WINKLER: Well, I think that if President Clinton could get universal background checks adopted, that would have an impact. We know that background checks have stopped more than a million people from buying guns at a gun store.

And if there's a President Trump, his policies on national right to carry are seen by some as very helpful tools in reducing violence. But that does depend on a very controversial judgment that more people with guns in the streets makes the streets safer.

SIEGEL: Does the record show that the presence of more people being allowed to carry a gun - does it seem to depress crime rates at all?

WINKLER: Social scientists have disagreed on whether more people with guns in the streets actually makes them safer or not. There are the famous more guns, less crime studies. But those studies have been refuted by many scholars since. So we don't know exactly the effect of concealed carry on public safety. But it doesn't seem to have a tremendously large effect in either direction.

SIEGEL: Adam Winkler, thanks for taking part in this Platform Check.

WINKLER: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA's law school. And he's the author of "Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.