A Run on Guns Before the Obama Inauguration: Is It Necessary?

November 12 2008, 8:00 AM

The Denver Post recently reported that the election of Barack Obama has spurred a rush on gun sales in Colorado due to fears that an Obama administration will restrict Second Amendment gun rights. The Kansas City Star also reported gun sales have increased across the country since October, when Obama seemed poised to win the election. Sales are also up in Iowa. Is this a rational fear or propaganda from the National Rifle Association? FactCheck.Org says the NRA's claims are false. Ten days before the election, the NRA posted on its website:

Obama has voted to ban hunting ammo, proposed a 500% increase in the excise tax on firearms, and even voted to ban single and double barrel shotguns. Obama has voted to allow reckless lawsuits against firearms manufacturers, and against Supreme Court Justices who supported the individual right to bear arms.

Just days after the election, the NRA posted a new litany of gun complaints against Obama, who, for his part, laid out his record on gun rights here. I analyzed Obama's record on gun rights during the campaign, concluding that he had not been consistent on the issue. In April, the Chicago Sun-Times interviewed him on his position.

We've got to tighten up our gun laws. I've said before we should have a much tougher background check system, one that's much more effective and make sure there aren't loopholes out there like the gun show loophole. [Or] The Tiahart Amendment [requiring destruction of gun-purchase records]. Here's an example of something common-sense: The ATF [federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] should be able to share info with local communities about where guns are coming from, tracing guns that are used in criminal activity. It's been blocked consistently in Congress. As president, I'm gong to make sure we know if guns are being sold by unscrupulous gun dealers not abiding by existing laws. We should know about that.

He also told the Sun-Times he intended to assist communities with juvenile gun programs:

Finally, we've got to deal with the underlying social issues that are causing this gun violence as well. You've got gangs of young men who are lost, who are involved in the drug trade. Starting early with early childhood education, improving our K-through-12 education, having after-school programs or summer-school programs so we are providing pathways for young people to move in the right direction. As president, we've got to be able to help local communities put those programs in place.

Colorado's Dave Koppel, director of the Independence Institute in Golden, wrote about Obama's gun control record in the Wall Street Journal.

In 1999, Mr. Obama urged enactment of a federal law prohibiting the operation of any gun store within five miles of a school or park. This would eliminate gun stores from almost the entire inhabited portion of the United States. As a state senate candidate in 1996, Mr. Obama endorsed a complete ban on all handguns in a questionnaire. The Obama campaign has claimed he "never saw or approved the questionnaire," and that an aide filled it out incorrectly. But...Politico.com found an amended version of the questionnaire. It included material added in Mr. Obama's handwriting. When the U.S. Supreme Court voted last year to hear a case on the constitutionality of the Washington, D.C., handgun ban, Mr. Obama's campaign told the Chicago Tribune: "Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional" and that "local communities" should have the ability "to enact common sense laws."

It seems that Obama does support an individual's right to bear arms, but he also believes the state has the authority and duty to impose regulations on that right for the safety of the community. I don't see a need to go out and buy more guns in advance of his inauguration. But, given his record and that of the Clinton-Gore Administration (pdf) before him, I also suspect he will appoint an attorney general who will make enforcement of gun crimes a chief priority. This week Obama released his "Urban Policy Plan," which includes the following:

Address Gun Violence in Cities: As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahart Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn't have them. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

Then again, as I wrote here in December 2007, Colorado U.S. Attorney Troy Eid also prioritized gun crimes, at the behest of Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was appointed by President Bush.

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