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Guns and obfuscations

In endorsing Donald Trump for president, the leadership of the National Rifle Association has surely completed its full and complete divorce from reality. Both believe that somebody — in this case, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — is after their guns and seeks to "abolish the Second Amendment."

Even taking Mrs. Clinton at her most fiery pro-gun control moments, she has said nothing of the kind. Rather, like the vast majority of Americans, she has mostly expressed support for closing loopholes that allow prospective gun buyers to avoid criminal background checks. Keeping guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill and convicted felons isn't exactly a fringe point of view; it generally receives a 70 percent to 90 percent endorsement in opinion polls.

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It's also the sort of common-sense approach to gun ownership that groups like the NRA used to support — until they figured out years ago that they could raise more money and political clout (and excite their base) by taking a far more absolutist approach. In the NRA's view, candidates like Barack Obama in 2008 aren't merely trying to reduce incidents of gun violence, they are "gun grabbers" who would "rewrite the Constitution" and leave Americans defenseless (aside from the more than 300 million guns currently in circulation in this country).

Who believes this kooky stuff? What kind of candidate can knowingly adopt such extreme views that are so far divorced from reality? What kind or person would have such a thin grasp of the issue? Who would be willing to potentially reverse his views on gun ownership (and perhaps even do so in 140 characters or less)?

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Mr. Trump fits those exact parameters in a manner seldom seen on the national stage. The same New York developer who expressed support for gun control in the past — in his 2000 book, "The America We Deserve," he backed an assault weapons ban, waiting periods and a background check, and after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in 2012, he praised President Obama for seeking to tighten gun controls — was formally endorsed by the NRA last Friday.

"The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump, OK? I will tell you. I will never let you down. I will protect our Second Amendment," he told the NRA convention audience in Louisville, Ky.

Those protections apparently extend to schools where Mr. Trump has recently pledged to end gun-free zones. But when Mrs. Clinton pointed that out over the weekend by criticizing Mr. Trump for favoring guns in the classroom, he shot back a tweet that claimed she was completely wrong only to later apparently acknowledge she was correct.

"Crooked Hillary said that I want guns brought into the school classroom. Wrong!" he posted Saturday before telling Fox News that "sometimes teachers should have guns" and that "trained teachers should have guns in classrooms, frankly."

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That's beyond lying. That's contradicting yourself while claiming you are consistent. Surely, America needs a new term for this sort of behavior — perhaps "brain-dead lying." It's not just about prevarication, it reflects an assumption that your audience is incapable of detecting your previously stated points of view — even those voiced a few seconds earlier in the conversation.

Progressive and independent voters aren't the only ones who should be appalled. How could any NRA member really believe anything Mr. Trump says on the subject? Granted, the NRA's distaste for Ms. Clinton is well-documented, and perhaps the endorsement was mainly an effort to lock Mr. Trump into a position — if that's possible.

We seriously doubt a majority of Americans want public school teachers packing heat in the classroom. Mr. Trump seems to understand that but also knows where the NRA stands, so he both endorses it and denies it. If this weren't such a serious issue, it would be a laughable self-contradiction. This kind of pandering doesn't make Mr. Trump an "outsider" candidate, it just makes him a particularly craven political insider who likes to obfuscate.

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