Sound-Bite Gun Fights: Presidential Debating About Firearms

presidential debates and firearmsAndrew J. McClurg, Sound-Bite Gun Fights: Three Decades of Presidential Debating About Firearms, 73 University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review 1015-45 (2005).

In recent years, both major political parties have shied away from discussing gun control and gun rights during the presidential election cycle.

But it wasn’t always been that way. To the contrary, with all of the important issues affecting America and Americans—taxes, budget deficits, foreign policy, unemployment, abortion, energy policy, the environment, education, poverty, health care, terrorism, Social Security and Medicare, nuclear disarmament and proliferation, tort reform, big government, equal rights and others—gun control has been one of the most frequently asked-about subjects over the twenty-eight year period of presidential debating from 1976-2004. The issue formed the subject of specific debate questions in five of the nine presidential debate cycles during that period.

This essay explores how presidential candidates performed in the gun debate during that period on the biggest political stage of them all.

It reviews, largely from a rhetorical perspective, the presidential debates from 1976 to 2004 through the lens of firearms policy, collecting and commenting on each excerpt from the debates  pertaining to gun rights and gun control.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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