By Chris W. Cox
Executive Director of NRA Institute for Legislative Action
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a rally in Lancaster, Pa., on Sept. 4. He strongly denied that he had any intention of taking away anyone’s shotguns, rifles or handguns. (Associated Press)
In speech after speech, Barack Obama has claimed he would “uphold the Second Amendment.” Mr. Obama, of course, is a polished speaker who says “words matter.” But records matter more. And while Mr. Obama is short on experience on most issues, he’s long on anti-gun votes and even longer on rhetoric. Now’s a good time to review both.
One of Mr. Obama’s first statements on the issue really said it all. During his first run for the Illinois Senate in 1996, Mr. Obama said on a candidate questionnaire that he supported legislation to “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” When challenged about the questionnaire earlier this year, Mr. Obama blamed others, saying his campaign staff had filled out the questionnaire incorrectly. (Unfortunately for that story, a version of the questionnaire later appeared bearing Mr. Obama’s own handwriting.)
Questionnaires aside, Mr. Obama has supported handgun bans even when they trap people who defend themselves. In a 2003 case, a resident of Wilmette, Ill., used a handgun to defend himself from a burglar with a drug habit and a long criminal record, breaking into his home for the second day in a row. Though authorities found the shooting justified, the armed citizen was charged with possessing a handgun in violation of Wilmette’s handgun ban.
Illinois lawmakers proposed legislation that would make self-defense an “affirmative defense” against prosecution for handgun possession in towns like Wilmette. Mr. Obama voted four times against the measure, which passed over his opposition, and over a veto by Illinois’ anti-gun governor, Rod Blagojevich, a long-time Obama ally.
Self-defense at home or outside the home – it’s all just as bad to Mr. Obama.
In 2004, he said he was “consistently on record and will continue to be on record as opposing concealed carry,” and that he’d back “federal legislation that would ban citizens from carrying weapons, except for law enforcement.” Mr. Obama had already put that anti-self-defense belief into action in 2001, voting against a state Senate bill that would have allowed people who receive protective orders – such as domestic violence victims – to carry firearms. Why? Because, in Mr. Obama’s world, “authorizing potential victims to carry firearms would potentially lead to a more dangerous rather than less dangerous situation … It was a bad idea and I’m glad it failed,” he said.
Mr. Obama also claims he’s no threat to hunters. But in 2005, he voted for a ban on all but the smallest rifle ammunition used for hunting (or for anything else). If the measure had passed, it would have classified most rifle ammunition beyond the low-powered .22 caliber as “armor piercing ammunition,” prohibited for civilian manufacture by federal law. The ammunition ban was hardly Mr. Obama’s first act against hunters, either. In 1999, Mr. Obama proposed increasing firearm and ammunition excise taxes by 500 percent. Right now, a rifle that a manufacturer sells for $500 carries an excise tax of $55. Under Mr. Obama’s proposal, that amount would rocket to $330. This would turn a tax willingly paid by sportsmen, which funds many of our wildlife conservation programs, into a tool to punish gun buyers.
Also, while Mr. Obama promises hunters, “I will not take your shotgun away,” his votes tell a different story. In 2003, while serving on the Illinois state Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Mr. Obama voted for a bill that would have banned (as so-called “semi-automatic assault weapons”) most single-shot and double-barreled shotguns, along with hundreds of models of rifles and handguns. If the bill had passed, any Illinois resident who possessed one of these guns 90 days after legislation went into effect, would have faced felony charges. What was that about not taking shotguns away?
As if voting for anti-gun plans wasn’t bad enough, Mr. Obama also helped pay for them. He was a board member from 1994 to 2001 of the anti-gun Joyce Foundation, which is the largest source of funding for radical anti-gun groups in the country. On Mr. Obama’s watch, Joyce donated $18.6 million to approximately 80 anti-gun efforts, including $1.5 million to the Violence Policy Center, the nation’s most aggressive gun-prohibitionist group. Many of the Joyce Foundation’s projects were aimed at editing the Second Amendment out of the Constitution.
But an Obama Supreme Court could do that more directly. Mr. Obama has said he would not have nominated Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. It was Justice Scalia who wrote the majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller, which declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and that D.C.’s handgun ban is unconstitutional. Justice Thomas joined in that opinion. As a member of the U.S. Senate, Mr. Obama also voted against confirming Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both of whom joined Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Heller. That means four of the five pro-freedom votes on the Supreme Court would not have been there under an Obama presidency.
This is the real Barack Obama. This record matches the attitude Mr. Obama revealed when he said rural Pennsylvanians are “bitter” and “cling to guns.” This record matches what you would expect to emerge from a Chicago political machine where an unrepentant terrorist is “respectable” and “mainstream.”
Finally, with no way to run from his record, Mr. Obama resorts to the ultimate political dodge. Does he support gun registration? “I don’t think that we can get that done.” Banning guns? “I couldn’t get it done. I don’t have the votes in Congress.”
These efforts to ease gun owners’ fears should make any gun owner ask, “Wait … why is he counting all these votes already?” Instead of this not-so-reassuring rhetoric, gun owners deserve the truth. And the truth is clear: Barack Obama would be the most anti-gun president in history – bar none.