The 2008 Elections Part I: The Senator From Illinois

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the Heller case, that the Second Amendment was an individual right, Illinois senator and Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama was quick to voice his support for the ruling. Throughout his campaign, in fact, Obama has maintained his support for gun owners and their right to keep and bear arms. Yet there’s a troubling pattern when it comes to Obama and his views on guns and gun control; a pattern that has alarmed gun owners and groups such as the National Rifle Association.

For example, when he was running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996, Obama filled out a questionnaire distributed by the Independent Voters of Illinois–Independent Precinct Organization. Among the questions asked, according to the New York Sun, was one about gun control.

“It asked candidates if they ‘support state legislation to … ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns,’” the Sun reported. “Mr. Obama’s typed response was, ‘Yes.’ His [presidential] campaign later said a staffer filled out the form and unintentionally misrepresented Mr. Obama’s position.”

“I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns,” Obama said when confronted with the questionnaire.

Yet Lois and Alan Dobry, board members of Independent Voters of Illinois, remembered it all differently. They actually “interviewed Obama when he submitted the questionnaire,” Bloomberg reported. “It is inconceivable, they said, that he was unaware of the answers, which he defended.”

“He was unequivocal,” Alan Dobry said of Obama’s support for a handgun ban.

More recently, Obama was asked about his views on concealed carry. At the time, Obama was campaigning in Pennsylvania, soon before that state’s presidential primary. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Obama’s response to that question was, “I am not in favor of concealed weapons. I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations.”

Then there’s Obama’s now-infamous quote, uttered at a fund-raising event. While describing small towns and rural areas of the country that have experienced difficult economic times, Obama said, “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

That supposed “bitterness” of gun owners has become a campaign issue. According to ABC News, The National Rifle Association has “announced it is firing away at the Democratic presidential candidate with a cache of TV and radio ads.”

Two of the ads focused on votes Obama took previously or positions the senator has said he supports. They included a vote for a federal bill that “would have expanded the definition of ‘armor-piercing’” ammunition, and in the process banned nearly all big-game hunting ammunition. Also, there’s Obama’s assertion, in a 2004 Senate debate, that the Clinton-era assault weapons ban should be renewed.

A third ad, “Way of Life,” featured Scott Siefert, a Michigan farmer, who referred to Obama’s line from that fund-raiser.

“Because I believe in traditional American values, go to church and exercise my right to own a firearm,” Siefert said, “Barack Obama says I’m bitter. Well I’m not bitter, I’m blessed.”

Last, Obama’s choice for a vice-presidential running mate was not one to curry favor with gun owners: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

“The Delaware senator’s grade from the NRA is a big, fat ‘F,’ based on votes to retain the ‘assault weapons’ ban, impose background checks on private sales by individuals at gun shows and [for voting against easing] … lawsuits against gun manufacturers,” the Examiner noted. “This is not a guy who’s enthusiastic about the individual right to self-defense.”

At a Charleston, S.C., debate in July, when Biden was vying for the presidential race, a video clip from a Michigan man asked this question: “To all the candidates, tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe.”

According to Politico, the man then “picked up what appeared to be a semiautomatic assault rifle” and said, “This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban. Please tell me your views. Thank you.”

Biden’s response?

“I’ll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help,” Biden said. “I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun.”

To read Part 2 of this special election series McCain and Gun Owners, A Strained Relationship, Click Here.
To read Part 3, Key Federal Races, Click Here
To read Part 4, State & Local Issues, Click Here

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