Several Sunday shows covered the topic, but none got to the point faster than This Week on ABC.
“Locked and loaded,” said the headline in big letters at the bottom of the screen that was seen at the top of the show.
Above the printed words, Donald Trump spoke to the National Rifle Association after receiving the gun group’s endorsement for president.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate,” said Mr. Trump, a Republican.
Next sound bite came from Ms. Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.
“Unlike Donald Trump,” she said, “I will not pander to the gun lobby.”
And suddenly—in a campaign filled with fake issues, propaganda and hyperbole—a clear and real difference became apparent between the two candidates on a significant question: Under our next president, will the United States finally get serious about its gun problem?
“This is going to be one of the key issues in the 2016 race,” Bill Press told Jake Tapper on State of the Union on CNN. “I haven’t seen any candidate take the gun issue as far as Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, I have not seen anyone take the NRA position as far as Donald Trump has.”
On Fox News Sunday with host John Roberts, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions—a top advisor to Mr. Trump—must have made a Freudian slip when he said: “Hillary Clinton is the most anti-Second Amendment president perhaps we’ve ever had.”
Note, he didn’t call her a “presidential candidate.” He called her the “president.”
“Americans need to realize the extent of her radical position,” Mr. Sessions said.
The screen showed a clip of Mr. Trump telling a crowd “Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment, just remember that.”
Michael Needham, the CEO of the right-wing Heritage Action for America, said “The Democrat party is absolutely hopeless when it comes to defending Second Amendment rights.” (Note to Mr. Needham: It’s called the “Democratic” party, not the “Democrat” party. You said it wrong, intentionally, four times. Knock it off).
On CNN, conservative S.E. Cupp said she owns a gun and is a member of the NRA and that Mr. Trump’s appearance in Louisville for the NRA speech was a master stroke.
“This is huge,” Ms. Cupp said. “He had that room eating out of the palm of his hand… They loved him… A lot of these people are single-issue voters. That’s significant for him… This was a big moment for him.”
They played a recording of Mr. Trump’s call to Fox and Friends Sunday morning seeking to clarify his position on guns in schools.
“I don’t want to have guns in the classrooms,” Mr. Trump said, “although, in some cases, teachers should have guns in classroom, frankly.”
‘Frankly, what the Democratic party is about is people running around to rich people’s homes to raise, you know, obscene sums of money from wealthy people.’
Mr. Tapper turned to Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn with a puzzled look and asked “What does that mean?”
Ms. Blackburn replied: “Trump is listening to what people want to see.”
Then this exchange.
PRESS: “Guns in the classroom, Congresswoman? Come on. What’s a teacher going to do?”
BLACKBURN: “Oh, Bill, for goodness sakes…”
On the panel portion of the ABC show, Mr. Trump was shown saying Ms. Clinton wants to take guns away from women and make them defenseless.
“That’s why we’re gonna call her ‘Heartless Hillary,’” he said.
Then a sound bite from Ms. Clinton.
“We know the gun lobby is powerful,” Ms. Clinton said. “I believe it’s the most powerful lobby in Washington and we know that some candidates will say or do anything to keep them happy.”
Regarding Mr. Trump’s thoughts about guns in schools, she said: “Every school. That idea isn’t just way out there, it’s dangerous. Do you want to imagine what Trump’s America will look like? Picture more kids at risk of violence and bigotry. Picture more anger and fear.”
The screen soon showed a Trump tweet reading “Crooked Hillary said that I want guns brought into the school classroom. Wrong!”
Host George Stephanopoulos said it didn’t seem as if Ms. Clinton would shy away from the gun issue.
“That is something new for Democrats ever since Al Gore did not become president in 2000,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said. One of his panelists, Matthew Dowd, said “This NRA-gun discussion represents what we’re going to see… It’s going to be an immense culture war.”
Fellow panelist Cokie Roberts brought the gun issue together with the “war on women” trope that often dogs Mr. Trump. She seemed to suggest that white women and white men might not vote alike.
After noting that Mr. Trump has solid support among gun-loving white men, Ms. Roberts said: “It’s white women—white women will determine this election.” Of Ms. Clinton’s opposition to Mr. Trump and the NRA on gun policy, Ms. Roberts said: “This gets right back to white women. That’s exactly what this is aimed at.”
On Face the Nation, Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post said Mr. Trump used to be pretty supportive of gun restrictions. Noting a comment Mr. Trump made to the NRA, Mr. O’Keefe said: “Saying Mrs. Clinton should go without Secret Service—that’s exactly what a lot of Republicans want to hear.”
And on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Jane Hall of American University told host Brian Stelter: “Fox News has been after Hillary Clinton and the latest will be `she’s going to take away your guns,’ which is what Trump said.”
Now, hand me the remote…
FACE THE NATION Unlike the other shows, John Dickerson’s hour on CBS began with foreign reporting. Reporters overseas described the drone-killing of Mullah Mansour in Pakistan and the recovery of the crashed Egyptian airliner from the Mediterranean Sea.
Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger—the pilot who landed his disabled plane on the Hudson—told Mr. Dickerson “it is just human nature to shoot from the lip or jump to conclusions” about terrorism when planes crash, but it is wise to wait for solid evidence.
Then came Bernie Sanders, stopping by on his rounds, to predict a good showing over Ms. Clinton in California and other remaining primary states. Without mentioning Mr. Trump, he said “If I were insulting somebody, we’d get a lot of attention.”
On the subject of fundraising, without mentioning Ms. Clinton, he said: “Frankly, what the Democratic party is about is people running around to rich people’s homes to raise, you know, obscene sums of money from wealthy people.”
Regarding the Republican candidate, Mr. Sanders said: “Donald Trump is a disaster… I will do everything I can, whether the candidate or not, to see that he is defeated.”
In the pundit discussion, Molly Ball of The Atlantic said Mr. Trump’s campaign may be financed by “eccentric billionaires.”
Mr. Dickerson liked the sound of that.
“The Eccentric Billionaires PAC,” he said. “It has a ring to it.”
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, discussed air safety in the wake of the Egyptair crash.
In reference to Mr. Trump’s vow to ban Muslims from the United States, Mr. Johnson said: “A ban based on religion is unwise and counter-productive. Frankly, we need to build bridges to Muslim communities.”
Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said “I don’t think you can ban an entire population. It would cause in the Muslim community a backlash.”
Mr. Sessions didn’t seem moved when Mr. Roberts asked the following sensitive question about Mr. Trump.
“Is it problematic,” Mr. Roberts asked, “for somebody who wants to be president to come out with that declaratory a statement, to say that this was in fact terrorism and if you think it was anything else you’re fooling yourself? Because he may have to walk it back.”
Mr. Sessions replied: “We’re so politically correct. If it’s not a terrorist attack, that’s great news, but it probably is and we should be able to think, talk about it and take action as soon as possible. We can’t be in denial.”
MEET THE PRESS Host Chuck Todd loves his polls and took plenty of time early in the show to explain how close Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump are in popularity (and unpopularity) numbers. He made light of Ms. Clinton often repeating “We are stronger together” as if that might be her campaign slogan.
Then came Ms. Clinton, in a recorded interview, with much to say.
“My campaign is not going to let Donald Trump try to normalize himself in this period,” she said. “He is unqualified to be President. I believe that deeply. I’m going to keep the focus on Donald Trump… He attacked our closest ally, England. Heaping praise on a dangerous dictator in North Korea. Reiterating his call to pull out of NATO, our strong military alliance.
“Talking about other countries having nuclear weapons. Advocating a return to torture and even murdering the families of suspected terrorists. This is beyond the pale and it poses immediate dangers… He seems to be particularly focused on making himself appear great. We’re going to be demonstrating the hollowness of his rhetoric and the danger of a lot of what he has said.”
As for Mr. Trump’s invisible tax returns, Ms. Clinton said: “If you’ve got someone running for president who is afraid to release his tax returns because it will expose the fact that he pays no federal income tax, I think that’s a big problem.”
STATE OF THE UNION Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld—the Libertarian candidate for vice-president was asked by Mr. Tapper if his prediction of a “Kristallnacht” under Donald Trump “is a little too strong.”
Mr. Weld didn’t agree.
“No, no,” he said, referring to the Nazi-led rampage of 1938 in Germany that marked a major escalation of the Holocaust. “If we don’t remember, we absolutely will forget. And you’ve got to forget a lot of things to think it’s a good idea to round up and deport 11 million people living peaceably, most of them working, in America.”
This was in reference to Mr. Trump’s threat to deport undocumented residents from the U.S., many of them back to Mexico.
THIS WEEK In Mr. Sanders’s conversation with Mr. Stephanopoulos on ABC, he said polls show “Two candidates who are really, really strongly disliked. I don’t want to see the American public voting for the lesser of two evils.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Is that how you would describe Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump? The lesser of two evils?”
SANDERS “No, I wouldn’t describe it. That’s what the American people are saying.”
Mr. Sanders objected to a report in The New York Times of chair-throwing by his supporters at the party convention in Colorado.
“Did you see any chairs being thrown?” Mr. Sanders asked. “There weren’t any.”
As if to contrast himself with Ms. Clinton, Mr. Sanders said: “Our supporters do not go to fancy, high-priced, fundraising dinners. That’s not who they are.”
On the panel, Bill Kristol continued his wistful, wishful thinking about a third-party candidate.
“A quarter of the country is for Trump,” he said. “A quarter of the country is for Clinton. And half the country is open to an alternative.”
On a different subject, Ms. Roberts referred to the answer Mr. Trump gave Mr. Stephanopoulos last week when asked his tax bracket.
“None of your business,” Mr. Trump said.
Ms. Roberts disagreed.
“The truth is everything is our business when somebody is running for president,” she said.
RELIABLE SOURCES On CNN, executive editor Marty Baron of The Washington Post told Mr. Stelter his reaction to some of Mr. Trump’s attacks on the media.
“I’m concerned when any candidate calls journalists ‘scum’ and ‘disgusting,’” Mr. Baron said. “I don’t think there’s any place for that. I think we need to show respect… I worry when those kinds of statements are made.”
Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for President George W. Bush, said “Manhattan, where most journalists are from and many are taught, is one of the most narrow-minded, stereotypical places you could ever find.” Of Megyn Kelly’s soft and fuzzy interview with Mr. Trump on the main Fox network last week, media critic James Warren said “This has been a big career boost for her, despite her suspension of her supposedly great news judgment.”
MEDIA BUZZ Brit Hume explained to Howard Kurtz one of Ms. Clinton’s possible strategies against Mr. Trump. “Is she going to simply decide Donald Trump is such a target-rich environment and so vulnerable that the way to win is to beat him within an inch of his life with ads and comments and so on if you can?” A memorial to Morley Safer of CBS showed him talking about stage fright on camera. “It is not natural to be talking to a piece of machinery,” Mr. Safer said. “But the money’s very good.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.