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The surprising agreement between Trump and Clinton on gun contro

In the four-dimensional chessboard on which the politics of gun control plays out, anything can happen — and for a brief moment in Monday night’s presidential debate, it did, as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton found themselves in agreement on at least one small aspect of it. At issue was a ban on gun sales to people on the government’s terror watch lists, a move which has taken on huge symbolic importance since Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., began pushing for it earlier this year in the wake of the deadly attack on an Orlando nightclub. Murphy made the hyperbolic but politically effective charge that Republicans who oppose the measure “want to sell weapons to ISIS.”
Murphy and his allies in the gun-control movement see this as a wedge issue that can break the National Rifle Association’s stranglehold on gun-control legislation; the NRA, accordingly, has fought the proposal, at least while it was being pushed by Democrats. At the same time, the American Civil Liberties Union, generally allied with the left, has opposed most efforts to attach new gun restrictions to the watch lists, which it regards as inherently problematic for civil liberties.
On Monday, though, Trump threw the whole debate into confusion by saying he agreed with Clinton, who also supports the idea.
“I think we have to look very strongly at no-fly lists and watch lists,” Trump said. “And when people are on there, even if they shouldn’t be on there, we’ll help them, we’ll help them legally, we’ll help them get off.”
It wasn’t his first time stating a position in favor of the ban, but he’d never acknowledged a need to improve the process of getting off the list before.
On the face of it, this defies both the NRA — one of Trump’s biggest backers — and the ACLU, which argues that Americans are being placed on the lists without being informed, without an explanation and with limited recourse for getting their names removed.
To Trump’s critics on the right, his stance speaks to a lack of principles and an eagerness to sacrifice conservative beliefs for political gain. All of Trump’s promises to conservatives — regarding the Supreme Court, religious liberty and economic policy — are subject to revocation if the political cost is too high, this behavior suggests.
Jay Cost of the the Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter after Trump’s comments on the no-fly list: “Look how he threw the NRA under the bus tonight. Think he won’t do that with taxes and regulations? Of course he will!”
Trump allies see something different: a political savvy that avoids falling into Democratic traps, while leaving their candidate wiggle room to do what he wants later. And while the NRA has vehemently criticized Democrats for backing the terrorist list gun ban, NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told Yahoo News that it might be worth considering if the idea comes from Trump.