Gun Control

By David Kopel

Change in Command. Jan. 2009

Second Amendment rights are very important to tens of millions of Americans. Many of those Americans are apprehensive about the Obama administration's intentions regarding those rights. Such apprehensions led to a tremendous increase in firearms sales in the months before and after the election.

On the one hand, candidate Obama repeatedly proclaimed that he considered the Second Amendment to be an individual right. On the other hand, he claimed that the Washington, D.C. handgun ban (which the Supreme Court declared to be unconstitutional last June, in District of Columbia v. Heller) was a reasonable, common-sense restriction on that right.

As a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama proposed a national ban on carrying concealed handguns. Such a ban would take away a right that millions of law-abiding Americans currently exercise — to carry a handgun for lawful protection, after passing a background check and a safety class. In the U.S. Senate and the Illinois Senate, Obama compiled a near-perfect record in voting for bans on a wide variety of guns, for lawsuits against gun manufacturers and gun stores, and for a host of other restrictions on gun owners. He even proposed outlawing all gun stores within five miles of a school or park — which would eliminate gun stores from almost all of the inhabited portions of the United States.

Thus, the Second Amendment right which Obama claims to support appears to be one of vanishingly small proportions.

Second Amendment supporters are also concerned about his choices to put Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emmanuel, and Eric Holder into key positions in his administration—for every one of them has a solid record as an advocate of highly restrictive gun control.

At best, Second Amendment supporters can hope that the Obama administration will concentrate on other issues. At worst, the Obama administration may push for repressive and extreme gun controls with the same vigor as did the Clinton administration, but with considerably more political skill.

David Kopel is Research Director at the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado. He is co-author of the law school textbook Gun Control and Gun Rights (NYU Press). He was one of the three lawyers who sat at the counsel table to assist Alan Gura's presentation of the oral argument in the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller.


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