Clinton was very careful with her rhetoric on gun rights, while Trump suggested that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that gave women the right to have an abortion, would be overturned if his nominees to the high court prevail.
Moderator and Fox News host Chris Wallace kicked off the debate by asking the candidates in what direction they want to see the Supreme Court take the country, and digging into their views on how the Constitution should be interpreted. That led the candidates straight to the third rail of American politics.
The former secretary of state defended her past statements about District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the Second Amendment right to bear arms specifically applies to individual self-defense.
Trump has cited Clinton’s criticisms of the Heller ruling to claim that Clinton would repeal the Second Amendment if elected, even as Clinton says there is “no doubt” she respects it.
“I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment,” a measured Clinton said, in a clear attempt to tamper down on traditionally liberal gun control rhetoric in order to appeal to red-state swing voters.
“That is not in conflict with sensible, common sense regulation,” she said, later adding that Americans should come together to proclaim, “of course we’re going to protect and defend the Second Amendment.”
Shifting to abortion, Trump said he would appoint conservative, pro-life justices, which would “automatically” lead to overturning Roe v. Wade. “It will go back to the states and the states will be making the decision,” the GOP nominee said.
Clinton, meanwhile, said she supports Roe v. Wade. Asked how far the right to an abortion should go, Clinton said there are regulations already in place in order to ensure that the “life and health of the mother can be taken into consideration.”