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Obama & the right to bear arms

Steve Morse - November 17th, 2008
On the day following the historic election of Barack Obama, it was clear, as reported by the Record-Eagle, that “not everyone is excited about the nation’s first black president” and, in fact, “some are downright hostile.”
The reference was to Rod Nyland, the managing employee of Hampel’s Key and Gun Shop in Traverse City. Nyland authorized the flying of an American flag upside down. As he explained, the purpose of doing this was to utilize “an international signal” to convey that “we feel our country is in distress because the n___ got in.” An hour later, Nyland apologized: “I regret my choice of words. That was a poor choice and I apologize. It’s probably not appropriate.”
At this point, Jack Fellows, a salesman for Hampel’s, said he, not Nyland, was a spokesman for the gun shop. Fellows stood by the decision to display the upside-down flag as “a distress signal warning for the country” as “basically a display of alarm.” “The winning presidential candidate,” said Fellows, “was not our choice and has the worst anti-gun record in Congress, let alone the Senate. He’s not fit to be president of the country.”
While the NRA has opposed Obama, it is not true that he has the “worst anti-gun record in Congress.” For one thing, Obama supported the landmark decision upholding Second Amendment rights handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, 2008.
In that case, District of Columbia v. Heller, a policeman challenged the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home and its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purposes of immediate self-defense as a violation of the Second Amendment.
Ruling for the policeman, the Court held that the Second Amendment protected an individual‘s right to possess a firearm, that that right was unconnected to service in a militia, and that to use a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, was permitted under the Constitution.
However, the Court also held that the Second Amendment right was not unlimited, and it noted that its opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on certain long-standing prohibitions related to firearms.
(It should not go without mention that the Annenberg Political Fact Check, a project that monitors truthfulness in politics, has stated that the NRA has distorted Obama’s position on gun control, and that “the NRA has cherry-picked, twisted and misrepresented Obama’s record to come up with a bogus ‘plan’” to oppose Obama, a plan on which the NRA spent $15 million during the presidential campaign.)
The Heller decision, which by the way was not favored by many liberals, was perfectly consistent with Senator Obama’s record and his position on gun rights. On this issue, the Obama website states:
As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt 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. The Tiahrt Amendment is also opposed by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the National Association of Sheriffs, many other law enforcement organizations and over 200 individual police chiefs and sheriffs on behalf of their jurisdictions.
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.
President-elect Obama’s position on guns is entirely reasonable, even if one doesn’t agree with it in every detail. His position, and his election, have certainly not created “a national crisis” of any shape or form. It is, therefore, abundantly clear that Hampel’s Gun Shop and its spokesmen have raised a red herring to cover themselves and their vicious racial slur.
Quite aware of the false propaganda spewed by the NRA, Senator Obama had occasion to address the gun control issue on the campaign trail. In the small town of Lebanon, Virginia, he talked about a range of issues facing rural people with a crowd of 2,400 packed into the high school gymnasium. Here’s part of the report by Matt Bai of The New York Times:
“One thing I want to make clear while we’re on this topic of rural America,” [Obama] said, looking around the gym. “There are a lot of folks who come up to me and say, ‘You know, Barack, I like your economic plan, and I’m tired of George Bush, but you know, I got my N.R.A. mailing, and I’m worried you’re gonna take my gun away.’” Obama likes to do this — to momentarily inhabit the mind of some composite character and act out his side of the conversation — and he was met with knowing chuckles.
“I just want to be absolutely clear, O.K.? I just don’t want any misunderstanding when you all go home and you talk with your buddies, and they say, ‘Oh, he wants to take my gun away.’ You heard it here, and I’m on television, so everybody knows. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.
“So if you want to find an excuse not to vote for me, don’t use that one!” Obama said, eliciting laughter and cheers from the crowd. “It just ain’t true!”
If, indeed, the “revised” position of Hampel’s was merely a sorry, fraudulent attempt to cover the real reason for its conduct, its representatives overstepped another principle of good conduct. This is a free country, and despite the depravity of the real reason for flying the flag in distress, Hampel’s people have the right under the First Amendment to express their views truthfully in a reasonable manner. The fact of the matter, however, is that they have neither the courage nor the integrity to do even that.

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