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April 6, 2008

The Second Amendment and speculating about post-Heller politics

The folks at Politico have this interesting new piece, headlined "Obama aims for pro-gun vote."  The piece indirectly reinforces my view that the Supreme Court's Heller case could significantly change the politics of gun law debates.  Here are snippets from the article:

Barack Obama [is]... making a play for pro-gun voters in rural Pennsylvania.  By highlighting his background in constitutional law and downplaying his voting record, Obama is engaging in a quiet but targeted drive to win over an important constituency that on the surface might seem hostile to his views....

“Guns are a cultural lens through which they view candidates,” said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a progressive think tank.  “If you are seen as way off on that issue, then you seem way off on everything.  If you are seen as OK, if the lens is clearer, then they continue to look at you and size you up on other things.”

“For Obama, who is less known and is from Chicago, a city guy and an African American, the feeling is that he is anti-gun,” Kessler continued. “By handling the Second Amendment correctly, he starts to get a hearing among these folks.” 

Obama aides would not discuss the campaign’s strategy.  While the effort so far in Pennsylvania appears modest, it is noteworthy for a race that has largely avoided such direct engagement with gun owners.  The campaign has asked gun rights advocates like state Rep. Dan Surra, a Democrat from rural Elk County with an “A+” rating from the NRA, to form a coalition of supporters who can vouch for Obama.  “It is clear out there that I am for Obama, and they have reached out to me as a sportsman and a gun owner,” Surra said Thursday.  “There has been an outreach to pro-gun legislators, pro-gun people who are sympathetic to Obama’s message.”...

Obama has long backed gun-control measures, including a ban on semiautomatic weapons and concealed weapons, and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month.  He has declined to take a stance on the legality of the handgun prohibition in Washington, D.C., which the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing, although Obama has voiced support for the right of state and local governments to regulate guns.

In the Senate, he and Clinton broke on one vote, in July 2006. Siding with gun-rights advocates, Obama voted to prohibit the confiscation of firearms during an emergency or natural disaster.  Clinton was one of 16 senators to oppose the amendment.

A two-page white paper on Obama’s website doesn’t mention his voting record.  Instead, he introduces himself as a former constitutional law professor who “believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he greatly respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms.”

“He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns for the purposes of hunting and target shooting,” the paper states. “He also believes that the right is subject to reasonable and common sense regulation.” ...

Obama’s approach is similar to one advocated by Third Way, which issued a seven-step blueprint in 2006 to close the “gun gap” with Republicans.  In a memo on its website, the group urges progressives to avoid silence on gun issues, and instead “redefine the issue in a way that appeals to gun owning voters.” ... The National Rifle Association posted an article on its website in February warning members against buying into Obama and Clinton, who were using the “scripted rhetorical tricks in the Third Way playbook to the letter.”

As I have highlighted in prior posts, if (and when?) the Supreme Court concludes in Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, the next big legal and political question will be what government regulations are consistent with that right.  And, as I have also highlighted in prior posts, I think the first hot post-Heller topics for federal litigation and debate will be the reasonableness of (1) broad federal laws prohibiting all felons (and domestic violence misdemeanants) from gun ownership and (2) extreme sentencing laws that can add decades to a sentence for possessing a gun in the wrong setting.

I am not sure what the National Rifle Association or the Third Way playbook has to say about these potential post-Heller gun rights/regulation topics.  But my point here is to highlight, yet again, how any pro-individual Second Amendment ruling in Heller could make the legal and political debates over gun rights look a lot different in a few months.

Prior posts on the Second Amendment and post-Heller gun litigation:

April 6, 2008 at 06:10 PM | Permalink


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Does anyone seriously believe that Senator Obama is in favor of gun rights?

Posted by: federalist | Apr 7, 2008 4:08:06 PM

I think he needs to be grilled with more questions about 2A and the Heller case. No doubt he wants the pro-gun states. To answer federalist no I do not believe he is in favor of gun rights.

Posted by: USMC | Apr 8, 2008 8:48:21 AM

While I am not sure that the Constitution actually supports an individual right to bear arms (an interpretation which is directly contrary to the weight of historical evidence of the Second Amendment), a Supreme Court ruling to that effect is likely to benefit the Democrats and gun control advocates greatly. Once total gun confiscation is off the table, the "they are going to take your guns away" argument of groups like the NRA is going to sound [even more] like the "black helicopter" type paranoia that it is. The Constitutional language not only allows, but calls for "a well regulated militia" meaning that gun control measures short of a total ban are likely to be upheld.

The "pro gun" crowd is much more in favor of gun control measures than they let on - the more moderate gun owners are likely to get the upper hand over extremist gun owners who see any sort of gun control as one step away from the government taking their guns. That factor seems to point in favor of those who favor gun control measures.

Obama is making the perfect political move - the Democrats should embrace the right to bear arms subject to reasonable regulation - it is ultimately where the majority of voters views lie, and it is likely what courts will ultimately interpret the Second Amendment to mean (and a pretty reasonable interpretation to boot). It is doubtful that Obama or any other serious candidate for public office is going to go after preventing felons from having guns though - a sure way to lose votes if there ever was one. Obama might be more sympathetic for going after the extreme gun sentencing enhancements which would be a positive move.

Posted by: Zack | Apr 8, 2008 3:24:39 PM

It is quite simply the case that Obama did NOT join with other Members of Congress in supporting Heller's case.

It is also quite simple to find that Obama votes FOR every gun control law he sees.

He has admitted to being in favor of gun bans. (And when his campaign tried to claim some staffer did this on his behalf his HAND WRITTEN NOTES were produced.)

Obama is NOT in favor of the actual rights to Keep and Bear Arms. He is undeniably for gun control and an infringement of human and civil rights.

Posted by: Herb Martin | Apr 11, 2008 3:56:55 PM

That is why I hope the media blast Obama with some tough questions about the 2nd amendment. So far they have given him a free pass.

Posted by: disenfranchised | Apr 12, 2008 8:53:22 PM

I believe the 'well regulated' as used in the 2A "a well regulated militia" means well equiped. In shooting the term 'regulated' means properly adjusted and fitted out for use or action. At the time the 2A was written, it's purpose, the framers intent, is to limit the power of government.

Posted by: Mike Manges | Apr 16, 2008 12:15:00 AM

A Little Gun History Lesson

In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated
China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million 'educated' people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
------------------ -----------
Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.
It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by their own government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars. The first year results are now in:

Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 percent

Australia-wide, assaults are up 8.6 percent

Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!

In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent. Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not, and criminals still possess their guns!

It will never happen here? I bet the Aussies said that too!
While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the past 12 months, since criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed.

There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the ELDERLY. Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in successfully ridding Australian society of guns. The Australian experience and the other historical facts above prove it.

You won't see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information.

Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens.

Take note my fellow Americans, before it's too late!

The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind him of this history lesson.

With Guns...........We Are "Citizens".
Without Them........We Are "Subjects".

During W.W.II the Japanese decided not to invade America because they knew most Americans were ARMED!

Note: Admiral Yamamoto who crafted the attack on Pearl Harbor had attended Harvard U 1919-1921 & was Naval Attaché to the U. S. 1925-28. Most of our Navy was destroyed at Pearl Harbor & our Army had been deprived of funding & was ill prepared to defend the country.

It was reported that when asked why Japan did not follow up the Pearl Harbor attack with an invasion of the U. S. Mainland, his reply was that he had lived in the U. S. & knew that almost all households had guns.

If you value your freedom, Please spread this anti-gun control message to all your friends!

Posted by: Elite | Oct 17, 2008 10:25:53 PM

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