The Future of Obama's Stealth Gun Control
January 2013: After the most unremittingly negative, cynical presidential contest in American history, Barack Obama has narrowly won a second term in the White House and stands ready to take the oath of office again. Aided immeasurably by a Legacy Media that buried the Gunwalker scandal along with myriad other scandals potentially harmful to him -- and relentlessly savaged his opponents -- Mr. Obama just barely pulled himself across the finish line on the strength of his rhetoric.
No longer restrained by the need to maintain appearances in order to win reelection, no longer restrained by the need to appease congressional Democrats, he turns to those facets of his agenda too unpopular to openly pursue during a first term. Very near the top of his list is gun control – or, more properly, the disarming of the American people.
Flash back to June 2011, when I wrote about the dangers of changing the balance of the Supreme Court from a majority which always (or usually) decides cases based on the Constitution, precedent, and the law to a majority which prefers to bypass those things to impose, by means of judicial fiat, leftist social policies which cannot carry legislative support, even with a Democrat majority in both houses of Congress. When I wrote that article, I had no idea that Mr. Obama would so soon provide such tellingly direct evidence of his post-2012 intentions.
It is certainly reasonable to believe that Mr. Obama is very much against the Second Amendment right of Americans to keep and bear arms. He has, upon occasion, said that he supports the Second Amendment. But his rhetoric is always accompanied by a “but” that opens the door to “common sense” gun control measures. It is a virtual certainty that what is “common sense” to Mr. Obama and his gun control allies is anything but to most Americans.
Despite his rhetoric, Mr. Obama’s true beliefs have always hovered just below the surface of his public rhetoric. (Take, for example, his well-known disdain for those who cling to God and guns.) But before exploring Mr. Obama’s actual second term intentions for the Second Amendment, it will be instructive to review his record on the issue. This list is not in any way exhaustive:
(1) In 1996, then Illinois state Senator Obama answered a gun control questionnaire. He wrote that he supported a complete ban on the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns and “assault weapons,” and also supported mandatory waiting periods and background checks. During the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama denied ever filling out the questionnaire, despite the fact that it was completed in his handwriting. FactCheck.org confirmed that he had, in fact, filled out the questionnaire. [source A]
(2) In 1998, Mr. Obama expressed his support for a complete ban on the sale or transfer of all semi-automatic firearms. He supported increasing state restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms -- this in Illinois, one of the only two states that to this day bans concealed carry. [source A]
(3) The 1998 Joyce Foundation annual report revealed that Mr. Obama was a member of its board of directors. The Joyce Foundation is one of the largest sources of funding for anti-gun groups and for anti-gun “research.” [source 7]
(4) In 1999, the Chicago Defender reported that Mr. Obama wanted to ban the resale of police issued firearms, even for the purpose of buying new equipment. [source 4]
(5) In 1999, Mr. Obama endorsed a 500% increase in the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. This was obviously intended to increase the price of gun ownership so drastically as to make it unaffordable for most Americans. [source 4]
(6) In 1999, Mr. Obama supported a proposal to ban gun stores within five miles of a school or park. This was a reasonable sounding scheme that would have had the effect of banning nearly every gun store in America. [source 8]
(7) In 1999, the Chicago Defender also reported that Mr. Obama favored mandatory firearm training for all gun owners and a ban on gun ownership for everyone under 21. [source 4]
(8) In 2000, Mr. Obama cosponsored a bill that limited firearm purchases to one per month. The bill failed. He also voted against allowing citizens to violate local weapon bans where self-defense was involved. [source A]
(9) In 2004, Mr. Obama voted for an Illinois Senate bill that allowed retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons. While this might seem to be at odds with every political stance he had taken on the issue, it was later revealed that at the time he was fighting his Republican opponent for the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police. His support for the bill was almost certainly cynical political pandering rather than an indication of any appreciation for police officers or for the rights of gun owners. [source A]
(10) In a 2004 Illinois Senate debate with Alan Keyes, Mr. Obama said: “I think it is a scandal that this president [Bush] did not authorize a renewal of the assault weapons ban.” [source A]
(11) In 2005, Mr. Obama voted in the U.S. Senate to ban nearly all rifle ammunition in common civilian use. [source 3]
(12) Mr. Obama opposes four of the five Supreme Court justices who affirmed an individual right to keep and bear arms. He said he would not have voted for Scalia or Thomas and voted against the confirmation of Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. [source 1]
(13) Mr. Obama voted to allow lawsuits against firearm manufacturers for the acts of third parties beyond their knowledge or control. Such suits were designed to destroy the domestic firearms industry. [source 2]
(14) Mr. Obama has consistently opposed right to carry laws. [source 6]
(14) A 2007 report revealed that Mr. Obama supported a ban on standard capacity magazines. [source 9]
(15) A 2008 report revealed that Mr. Obama was in favor of mandatory micro-stamping, a scheme which would significantly increase the cost of new firearms while simultaneously establishing a massive registry. Despite uniform scientific evidence that the scheme does not and cannot work, efforts to impose it continue today. [source 10]
(16) In 2008, ABC News reported Mr. Obama’s support for gun bans in major cities including Chicago and Washington, D.C. [source 5]
(17) Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign website indicated his support for the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits information on gun traces collected by the ATF from being used in nuisance lawsuits against firearm dealers and manufacturers. This too is a battle anti-gun forces continue to fight. [source 11]
Note that Mr. Obama’s antipathy for guns and their owners was abundantly clear from virtually the first moment the public took notice of him. None of this should be surprising. Mr. Obama is, after all, not only a Democrat, but a product of the Chicago political machine.
Mr. Obama’s anti-freedom inclinations have not abated. He has merely put them aside temporarily in the pursuit of larger progressive goals. Just because gun control has not had the kind of exposure enjoyed by ObamaCare does not mean it is not part of Mr. Obama’s agenda.
Mr. Obama’s judicial appointments have been an important means of anti-Second Amendment activism. His two appointments to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, professed their support for precedent and the Second Amendment during their confirmation hearings, but voted against Second Amendment freedoms at their first opportunity after being confirmed.
More recently, Mr. Obama nominated 39 year-old Berkeley Law School Dean Goodwin Liu for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals [source C]. The 9th Circuit is known as the most liberal appeals court in the nation, and has earned the dubious distinction of being the court most overturned by the Supreme Court. A staunch progressive, Liu’s writings revealed a man of no judicial experience who favored deciding cases based on progressive policy goals rather than the Constitution. Liu’s anti-gun views were predictable and available in his own words in several prominent articles. Fortunately, Liu’s nomination was blocked and eventually withdrawn.
As has been recently reported, acting ATF head Kenneth Melson may soon be out the door, the first Obama administration victim of the Gunwalker debacle. This has lead to speculation that Mr. Obama will again nominate Andrew Traver of the Chicago ATF office to head the agency. Mr. Traver’s anti-gun credentials are impeccable. That Mr. Obama would even think of nominating someone like Mr. Traver to head the ATF with the Gunwalker scandal still boiling is surely indicative of his attitude toward gun control. [Source F]
The objection could be raised that Mr. Obama’s relative lack of overt action on gun control initiatives indicates that he is not a stereotypical progressive gun banner. But on May 25, 2011, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air [source B] provided substantial and disturbing information that dispatches this charge. It seems that Mr. Obama has a “point man” in the White House in charge of gun regulation policies named Steve Crowley. Mr. Crowley was profiled in the Washington Post “Lifestyle” section in April. A gun control point man seems rather odd for a president who isn’t planning to pursue gun control policies.
In addition, on March 30, Sarah and Jim Brady of the Brady Center, one of the most prominent anti-gun organizations, met with Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney. Mr. Obama met with them as well, and according to Sarah Brady told them that gun control was “…very much on his agenda.”
Brady quoted Mr. Obama: “I just want you to know that we are working on it. We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar.”
According to Morrissey, the Huffington Post has reported that the Department of Justice has been holding meetings to plan options for enacting gun controls by bypassing the legislative process though executive orders or regulation making by federal bureaucrats. This method of autocratic rule is nothing new for the Obama administration. [source B]
The cross-border Gunwalker mess is not the only way in which Mr. Obama has pursued an anti-gun foreign policy. According to former UN Ambassador John Bolton, the Obama administration’s apparently incoherent policy is being used to further gun control goals domestically and internationally. Bolton asserts that the Obama administration is arguing that supposedly lax American gun laws are responsible for the problem of drug related violence in Mexico, and that this argument will provide a foundation for United Nations arms treaties. [source E]
The Gunwalker scandal provides only the most recent -- and potentially the most damning -- evidence of the Obama gun control agenda.
So return to January 2013. What can Americans expect? Mr. Obama will rely on his tried and true methods, continuing the perpetual campaign despite the fact that, for him, the campaign is over. Those methods include:
(1) Public persuasion. This is the first, above the radar, public front. Mr. Obama has always tried to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to convince “the people” that their ruin is actually their salvation. This first step is always closely aligned with:
(2) Legislation. When Democrats controlled the Congress, Mr. Obama was able to push through ObamaCare despite the fact that a clear majority of the public did not, and does not, want it. However, even with control of Congress, he was not able to pass cap and trade, which would have given him absolute control over the daily lives of “the people” -- enabling Obama bureaucrats to regulate the very air we breathe. If Mr. Obama has lost control of both houses in 2013, this option would be more or less closed to him, but his veto would prevent back-sliding on portions of his agenda already imposed by various means. If the legislature is closed to him (and even if it is not), Mr. Obama will rely upon:
(3) The administrative state. Where the first several steps fail, Mr. Obama makes an end run around the legislature by means of his appointed, unaccountable czars and innumerable bureaucratic functionaries, constantly growing in number and boldness, who not only have the power to make up the rules as they go, but to harass, obstruct, punish, and harm anyone who might try to stand in their way. Bureaucrats can, on their own initiative, bring economic development and activity to a halt. By ensuring that only like-minded sycophants are in bureaucratic positions, Mr. Obama need not stoop to issuing specific instructions: they know what to do. Mr. Obama would not have appointed them if they did not. They will -- independent of other initiatives on other fronts -- continue to do everything possible to obtain by fiat what is otherwise unobtainable.
(4) Environmentalists and similar groups. Whatever can’t be obtained through the first three steps can be obtained -- and opponents impeded and punished -- through the efforts of gun control groups, environmentalists, and other advocacy groups. By means of manipulating the media, threatening and abusive protests, and filing endless lawsuits to obstruct and delay whatever they oppose, the Obama agenda can be furthered. Many of these organizations are openly extreme in their views and tactics -- giving Mr. Obama cover, as he will tend to be reluctant to reveal his true beliefs, preferring a stealthily socialistic approach.
(5) The imperial courts. By appointing the “right” kind of judges and/or jurisdiction shopping, predictable rulings are easy to obtain. Whatever mischief bureaucrats aren’t able to secure can often be accomplished through liberal, activist judges. Even if lower court decisions are eventually and inevitably overturned, the process takes years, and any rulings adverse to Mr. Obama’s desires can usually be safely ignored.
(6) The international community. As Ambassador Bolton noted, Mr. Obama is a believer in the will of the international community and the UN. International bureaucrats have long sought to impose gun control on the world and America through binding treaties. With nothing to lose, Mr. Obama will almost certainly become much more active on this front.
With a second term, Mr. Obama can be expected to cause unimaginable damage to America apart from the economic disaster he is already wreaking. His agenda will continue to be at least somewhat stealthy. But, unburdened with the necessity of a second campaign, Mr. Obama will almost certainly go for broke on every item on his progressive wish list. Gun control has always been near the very top of every progressive’s wish list, and Mr. Obama is nothing if not a good progressive. Sarah Brady is convinced of it. Despite the fact that the Brady Campaign has often been caught in misrepresentation and lies, Americans would be wise to take her at her word, at least this once.
(1) United States Senate vote 245, September 29, 2005, and vote 2, January 31, 2006, and Saddleback Forum, August 16, 2008.
(2) “Candidates' gun control positions may figure in Pa. vote,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Wednesday, April 2, 2008, and "Keyes, Obama Are Far Apart On Guns," Chicago Tribune, 9/15/04. (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_560181.html)
(3) United States Senate, S. 397, vote number 217, Kennedy amendment July 29, 2005. (http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00217)
(4) “Obama and Gun Control,” The Volokh Conspiracy, taken from the Chicago Defender, Dec. 13, 1999. (http://www.volokh.com/posts/1203389334.shtml)
(5) David Wright, Ursula Fahy and Sunlen Miller, "Obama: 'Common Sense Regulation' On Gun Owners' Rights," ABC News' "Political Radar" Blog, http://blogs.abcnews.com, 2/15/08. (http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/02/obama-common-se.html)
(6) “Candidates' gun control positions may figure in Pa. vote,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Wednesday, April 2, 2008, and "Keyes, Obama Are Far Apart On Guns," Chicago Tribune, 9/15/04. (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_560181.html)
(7) 1998 Joyce Foundation Annual Report, p. 7.
(8) “Obama and Gun Control,” The Volokh Conspiracy, taken from the Chicago Defender, Dec. 13, 1999. (http://www.volokh.com/posts/1203389334.shtml)
(9) “Clinton, Edwards, Obama on gun control,” Radio Iowa, Sunday, April 22, 2007. (http://learfield.typepad.com/radioiowa/2007/04/clinton_edwards.html)
(10) Chicago Tribune blogs, “Barack Obama: NIU Shootings call for action,” February 15, 2008. (http://blogs.trb.com/news/politics/blog/2008/02/barack_obama_comments_on_shoot.html)
(11) Barack Obama campaign website: “As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment . . .” (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/urbanpolicy/#crime-and-law-enforcement.)