14 July, 2008

The Candidates and the Second Amendment

This is the second post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and there's plenty of information, especially after the recent Heller decision by the SCOTUS.

For reference, here's the text of the Second Amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Someone's beat me to it at a site called "Gun Owners of America". They also look at Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin, but I have no intention of doing so. Also, the articles here appear to have been written pre-Heller, so I will look at what the candidates have said since then. I'm also going to look at some other sites.

First, lets look at Barack Obama.

GOA doesn't like Barack Obama at all. Here are some quotes.

Obama told Iowa radio listeners last year that he is a "strong believer" in the rights of hunters and sportsmen, and that homeowners should have a firearm "to protect their home and their family." But then in the next breath, he says, "It's hard for me to find a rationale for having a 17-clip semiautomatic [sic]."

Obama supports the existing gun control laws on the books. Nowhere in his literature or in his campaign speeches does he stake out a position in favor of repealing any gun control measure that has passed into law.

Obama supports the gun ban in the nation's capital, saying the "DC handgun law is constitutional."

In 2004, Obama said he supports a national ban on concealed carry because the states that allow it are "threatening the safety of Illinois residents."

Barack Obama's Gun-Related Votes

The U.S. Senate Debated: Obama Voted:
Supporting concealed carry for citizens Anti-gun
Banning many common semi-automatic firearms Anti-gun
Disallowing self-defense in towns where guns are banned Anti-gun
Imposing one handgun a month restrictions Anti-gun
Requiring lock up your safety trigger locks Anti-gun
Protecting gun dealers from frivolous lawsuits Anti-gun
Outlawing gun confiscations during a national emergency Pro-gun
Squelching the free speech rights of gun owners Anti-gun
Restricting the interstate sales of firearms Anti-gun
Repealing the gun ban in Washington, DC Anti-gun

The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action site doesn't like Obama either:

FACT: Barack Obama voted to allow reckless lawsuits designed to bankrupt the firearms industry.

FACT: Barack Obama wants to re-impose the failed and discredited Clinton Gun Ban.

FACT: Barack Obama voted to ban almost all rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and sport shooting.

FACT: Barack Obama has endorsed a complete ban on handgun ownership.

FACT: Barack Obama supports local gun bans in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities.

FACT: Barack Obama voted to uphold local gun bans and the criminal prosecution of people who use firearms in self-defense.

FACT: Barack Obama supports gun owner licensing and gun registration.

FACT: Barack Obama refused to sign a friend-of-the-court Brief in support of individual Second Amendment rights in the Heller case.

FACT: Barack Obama opposes Right to Carry laws.

FACT: Barack Obama was a member of the Board of Directors of the Joyce Foundation, the leading source of funds for anti-gun organizations and “research.”

FACT: Barack Obama supported a proposal to ban gun stores within 5 miles of a school or park, which would eliminate almost every gun store in America.

FACT: Barack Obama voted not to notify gun owners when the state of Illinois did records searches on them.

FACT: Barack Obama voted against a measure to lower the Firearms Owners Identification card age minimum from 21 to 18, a measure designed to assist young people in the military.

FACT: Barack Obama favors a ban on standard capacity magazines.

FACT: Barack Obama supports mandatory micro-stamping.

FACT: Barack Obama supports mandatory waiting periods.

FACT: Barack Obama supports repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits information on gun traces collected by the BATFE from being used in reckless lawsuits against firearm dealers and manufacturers.

FACT: Barack Obama supports one-gun-a-month sales restrictions.

FACT: Barack Obama supports a ban on inexpensive handguns.

FACT: Barack Obama supports a ban on the resale of police issued firearms, even if the money is going to police departments for replacement equipment.

FACT: Barack Obama supports mandatory firearm training requirements for all gun owners and a ban on gun ownership for persons under the age of 21.

And his comments about the Heller decision were weak, as I've noted here before.

"I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through commonsense, effective safety measures," Obama said.

In fact, it's pretty much impossible to find any article on the net that discusses Obama and the Second Amendment in a positive light.

GOA isn't exactly thrilled with John McCain either. Here are the quotes:

But as he ramped up for his presidential run in 2000, McCain, expanding on the 'maverick' theme, staked out a position on guns far to the left of his primary opponent, George W. Bush. McCain began speaking out against small, inexpensive handguns and he entertained the idea of supporting the 'assault weapons' ban.

As moviegoers flocked to see Pearl Harbor, they were treated to an anti-gun trailer ad featuring McCain. This time the Senator was pushing legislation to force people to keep firearms locked up in the home.

Also in 2001, McCain went from being a supporter of anti-gun bills to being a lead sponsor.

In the post-Columbine and post-9/11 environments, the Second Amendment was under attack as never before. Pro-gun patriotic Americans who stood as a bulwark to keep the Congress from eviscerating the Constitution were dismayed to look across the battle lines only to see Senator McCain working with the enemy.

He's authored the gunshow background checks bill that many have accused of being loaded with "poison pills". The NRA once called him one of the "premier flag-carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment".

However, he was unequivocal in his support of the Heller decision, and at least claims to support gun rights on his website. He also spoke at the NRA convention in Louisville this year and tried to mend fences.

"The Second Amendment isn't some archaic custom that matters only to rural Americans who find solace in firearms out of frustration with their economic circumstances," McCain said.

McCain, who is viewed with suspicion among many gun owners because of his efforts to reform campaign finance laws and his decade-long battle with the NRA over background checks at gun shows, sought to mollify his conservative critics by declaring fealty to the Second Amendment. The presumptive GOP nominee did not abandon his support for background checks, but he tried to cast his disagreements with the NRA as isolated cases separate from otherwise solid support for gun rights.

Looking around the net, it's a mixed bag. Mostly negative articles about John McCain and the second amendment, but there are some (especially more recent ones) that are more positive. This is definitely an area where he's trying to appeal to the base.

So, then to the grades.

I don't think Libertarians would be thrilled with either.

Obama: D- Based totally on his lukewarm support of Heller, otherwise it'd be an F.

McCain: C- I'm tempted to give McCain a C because I agree the statement that his disagreements are isolated. However, they may be isolated, but they are also numerous. I wouldn't classify him an enemy to gun rights, but he's certainly no friend.

Second Amendment: Advantage McCain

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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