Candidate Barack Obama and his handlers tried, during the presidential campaign, to defang the National Rifle Association and other pro-Second Amendment groups fearful of what he might do if elected in much the way that centrist Democrats did in 2006.
Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) himself said that as a lawyer and former law professor, he read the Second Amendment as defining an individual, as opposed to a collective, right in much the way the Supreme Court did in the recent Heller decision. As an individual right, gun ownership is constitutionally guaranteed subject only to reasonable restrictions that, to pass muster, would be subject to rigorous court scrutiny. There was a hint that his view of what might be reasonable might differ from the Court’s, as he suggested that in his view the D.C. handgun ban (later struck down in Heller) might well be consistent with such a reading of the Constitution.
That passing comment was lost in the back-and-forth of a campaign focused almost exclusively on other issues, but when groups and individuals questioned his dedication to their right to buy, sell and use firearms for legitimate purposes, they were reassured by a campaign that didn’t want this issue on the table.
At one point, the candidate himself said that gun owners needn’t worry because even if he wanted to “take their guns,” he wouldn’t have the votes in Congress to do so. As Nov. 4 approached, however, the candidate told a reporter from National Public Radio that once elected, he might well seek a federal law prohibiting states from passing what are known as “concealed carry” laws, such as those that have been enacted by 48 states. And within days of the election, his transition team website outlined his agenda in detail, leading any reasonable observer to conclude that it is an agenda he and his managers have had in mind all along.
Now that he’s our president-elect, Obama wants to reinstitute the discredited Clinton “assault weapons ban,” on the grounds that it was a ban on fully automatic machine guns that “belong on foreign battlefields.” It was, of course, no such thing, and he or whoever handles these issues knows better.
He also wants to repeal the so-called Tiahrt Amendment that prohibits the release of federal firearms tracing information to anyone other than law enforcement agencies conducting bona fide criminal investigations. The Tiarht Amendment passed with the support of, among others, The Fraternal Order of Police.
And as if this isn’t enough, he also wants to revisit and “close” the so-called “gun show loophole” — which isn’t a loophole at all — by essentially closing down gun shows attended by more than 5 million Americans a year. Obama would also require gun makers to produce “childproof” firearms, though the chances of a child being killed or injured in a firearms accident in this country is less than one in a million.
What the president-elect apparently hopes to do while bringing us all together after Jan. 20 is pursue a rabidly anti-gun agenda that could reignite a cultural political war and put many centrist Democrats elected on pro-Second Amendment platforms in a politically perilous position.