For millions of American gun owners, 2008 was an historic year for gun rights. Most importantly, the United States Supreme Court ruled unequivocally that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess a firearm.
However, 2008 is also the year America elected its most anti-gun president ever, who will surely shape the future judicial and legislative debate over gun control.
As the country prepared for Election Day, gun owners prepared for future gun control laws by voting with their dollars to support their Second Amendment rights. The move in recent months by many Americans to purchase firearms has not gone unnoticed by the firearms industry or analysts who study such purchasing trends. Although many industries have suffered during our country’s economic troubles, firearm sales have remained strong and growing. Firearm retailers around the country are acknowledging a boost in sales, long lines and disappearing inventory from their stores. Manufacturers are rolling out special inaugural edition models and holding sales that expire on Jan. 20, 2009.
FUTURE OF SETBACKS
Obama’s anti-gun record translates to a certain future of setbacks for the firearm freedoms cherished by Americans across the country. The looming question is how aggressive Obama’s administration will be toward unraveling America’s Second Amendment freedoms. While Barack Obama has proclaimed that he would “uphold the Second Amendment,” his campaign rhetoric did not match his voting record in the Illinois and United States Senate.
While running for the Illinois Senate in 1996, Obama filled out a candidate questionnaire stating that he supported legislation to “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” When challenged about the questionnaire earlier this year, Obama blamed others, saying his campaign staff filled out the questionnaire incorrectly. (Unfortunately for that story, a version of the questionnaire later appeared bearing Obama’s own handwriting.)
Questionnaires aside, Obama 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. Obama voted four times against the measure, which passed over his opposition and over a veto by Illinois’ anti-gun Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a longtime Obama ally.
Self-defense at home or outside the home – it’s all just as bad to 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.”
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 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.”
Obama also claims he’s no threat to hunters. However, in 1999, then-state senator 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 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.
VOTES TELL THE STORY
And while 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, Obama voted for a bill that would have banned 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 it went into effect would have faced felony charges.
Barack Obama continued his anti-gun votes when he reached the United States Senate. 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.
As a U.S. senator, Obama said he would not have nominated Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, and Justice Thomas joined in that opinion.
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. Although 31 state attorneys general, 55 U.S. Senators and 205 U.S. Representatives signed their names to friend of the court briefs in support of the Second Amendment as an individual right, president-elect Obama, in all of his Constitutional wisdom, could not even bring himself to join his congressional colleagues in taking a stand for our firearm freedoms.
While the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller gave the Second Amendment a protected place in Constitutional law, it will not be the final word on firearm ownership. More lawsuits have been filed across the country challenging similar bans and arguing that the Second Amendment, like most other provisions of the Bill of Rights, should apply the states.
No one knows the future of these court challenges and legislative battles, but one thing is certain: President-elect Obama will have a unique opportunity to shape the Second Amendment debate through hundreds of judicial appointments, including three or more to the U.S. Supreme Court. The fact that something as fundamentally American as the right to individual firearm ownership in our homes came down to a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is alarming. The more gun owners found out about presidential candidate Barack Obama, the more reason they found to worry about an Obama administration. The reaction: gun owners voted with their ballots, and their wallets, to protect their firearm rights.
For information visit www.nra.org.