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Barack Obama on Gun Control

Democratic incumbent President; IL Senator (2004-2008)


Stricter gun rules, with or without Congress

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say "we are not afraid," and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
Source: 2014 State of the Union address , Jan 28, 2014

Gun violence victims deserve a vote

It has been two months since Newtown. This is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans--Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment--have come together around commonsense reform--like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that's your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

Source: 2013 State of the Union Address , Feb 12, 2013

I believe in 2nd Amendment, but not war weapons on streets

Q: In 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.

OBAMA: We're a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We've got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves. My belief is that we have to enforce the laws we've already got, make sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We've done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we've got more to do when it comes to enforcement. But weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence and they're not using AK-47s. They're using cheap hand guns.

Source: Second Obama-Romney 2012 debate , Oct 16, 2012

Fast-and-Furious: no prosecutions for Mexican gun/drug snafu

The Republican-led House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. The politically & constitutionally charged dispute centered on whether the Justice Department must turn over e-mails and memorandums showing its internal deliberations last year about the botched Arizona-based gunrunning investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious. President Obama has invoked executive privilege to block the subpoena.

Operation Fast & Furious was conducted from late 2009 to early 2011 by ATF agents who were looking into a gun-smuggling network linked to a Mexican drug cartel. Suspected "straw" purchasers for the network ended up acquiring about 2,000 guns. In Dec. 2010, two such weapons were found at the site of a shootout in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.

The Obama administration will not prosecute Holder for criminal contempt because the Justice Department does not consider it to be a crime to fail to provide information over which a president has asserted executive privilege.

Source: New York Times, "Fast and Furious Contempt" , Jun 29, 2012

Midwestern "bitter clingers" frustrated over broken promises

What Obama said in San Francisco seemed to denigrate the very people he was struggling to win: "You go into some of these small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama told his donors. "Each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

The fund-raiser was closed to the press. No one from the Obama campaign even had a recording of the comments. Hillary had argued that she was the real champion of the beleaguered middle class, while Obama was the darling of the latte-drinkers. She said, "Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans." Obama tried to backpedal.

Source: The Battle for America 2008, by Balz & Johnson, p.206-207 , Aug 4, 2009

Opposed bill okaying illegal gun use in home invasions

Hale DeMar, a 52-year-old Wilmette resident, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor violations for shooting, in the shoulder and leg, a burglar who broke into his home not once, but twice. Cook County prosecutors dropped all charges against DeMar.

In March 2004, the Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 2165, a law introduced in response to DeMar's case, with provisions designed to assert a right of citizens to protect themselves against home invasions, such that self-defense requirements would be viewed to take precedence over local ordinances against handgun possession. The measure passed the Illinois Senate by a vote of 38-20. Barack Obama was one of the 20 state senators voting against the measure.

Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed the bill. On Nov. 9, 2004, the Illinois Senate voted 40-18 to override Blagojevich's veto. Again, Obama acted against the bill.

On Nov. 17, the Illinois House voted overwhelmingly, 85-30, to override the governor's veto and Senate Bill 2165 became law.

Source: Obama Nation, by Jerome Corsi, p.241-242 , Aug 1, 2008

Ok for states & cities to determine local gun laws

Q: Is the D.C. law prohibiting ownership of handguns consistent with an individual’s right to bear arms?

A: As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can’t constrain the exercise of that right, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.

Q: But do you still favor the registration & licensing of guns?

A: I think we can provide common-sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns that are ending up on the streets. We can make sure that criminals don’t have guns in their hands. We can make certain that those who are mentally deranged are not getting a hold of handguns. We can trace guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers that may be selling to straw purchasers and dumping them on the streets.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary , Apr 16, 2008

FactCheck: Yes, Obama endorsed Illinois handgun ban

Obama was being misleading when he denied that his handwriting had been on a document endorsing a state ban on the sale and possession of handguns in Illinois. Obama responded, “No, my writing wasn’t on that particular questionnaire. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.”

Actually, Obama’s writing was on the 1996 document, which was filed when Obama was running for the Illinois state Senate. A Chicago nonprofit, Independent Voters of Illinois, had this question, and Obama took hard line:

35. Do you support state legislation to:
a. ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns? Yes.
b. ban assault weapons? Yes.
c. mandatory waiting periods and background checks? Yes.

Obama’s campaign said, “Sen. Obama didn’t fill out these state Senate questionnaires--a staffer did--and there are several answers that didn’t reflect his views then or now. He may have jotted some notes on the front page of the questionnaire, but some answers didn’t reflect his views.”

Source: FactCheck.org analysis of 2008 Philadelphia primary debate , Apr 16, 2008

April 2008: "Bittergate" labeled Obama elitist

April 11th produced "Bittergate." The Huffington Post website posted an explanation Obama gave at a private fundraiser in San Francisco of the challenges he faced with working-class voters in Pennsylvania and Indiana. "It's not surprising they get bitter," he said, referring to decades of constrained economic opportunities. "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."

Clinton said the remarks were "not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans." McCain said Obama showed "breathtaking" elitism. Obama challenged the accusations, and noted in response to the charge of elitism that he had been raised by a single mother who relied on food stamps, but conceded he could have been more diplomatic.

Source: Obama for Beginners, by Bob Neer, p. 61 , Apr 1, 2008

Respect 2nd Amendment, but local gun bans ok

Q: You said recently, “I have no intention of taking away folks’ guns.” But you support the D.C. handgun ban, and you’ve said that it’s constitutional. How do you reconcile those two positions?

A: Because I think we have two conflicting traditions in this country. I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’ve got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of law-abiding citizens use it for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measure that I think respect the Second Amendment and people’s traditions.

Source: 2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview , Feb 11, 2008

Provide some common-sense enforcement on gun licensing

Q: When you were in the state senate, you talked about licensing and registering gun owners. Would you do that as president?

A: I don’t think that we can get that done. But what we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement. The efforts by law enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers. As president, I intend to make it happen. We essentially have two realities, when it comes to guns, in this country. You’ve got the tradition of lawful gun ownership. It is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot. Then you’ve got the reality of 34 Chicago public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago. We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas , Jan 15, 2008

2000: cosponsored bill to limit purchases to 1 gun per month

Obama sought moderate gun control measures, such as a 2000 bill he cosponsored to limit handgun purchases to one per month (it did not pass). He voted against letting people violate local weapons bans in cases of self-defense, but also voted in2004 to let retired police officers carry concealed handguns.
Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.148 , Oct 30, 2007

Concealed carry OK for retired police officers

Obama voted for a bill in the Illinois senate that allowed retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons. If there was any issue on which Obama rarely deviated, it was gun control. He was the most strident candidate when it came to enforcin and expanding gun control laws. So this vote jumped out as inconsistent.

When I queried him about the vote, he said, “I didn’t find that [vote] surprising. I am consistently on record and will continue to be on record as opposing concealed carry. This was a narrow exception in an exceptional circumstance where a retired police officer might find himself vulnerable as a consequence of the work he has previously done--and had been trained extensively in the proper use of firearms.“

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that another theory came forward about the uncharacteristic vote. Obama was battling with his GOP opponent to win the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p.250-251 , Aug 14, 2007

Stop unscrupulous gun dealers dumping guns in cities

Q: How would you address gun violence that continues to be the #1 cause of death among African-American men?

A: You know, when the massacre happened at Virginia Tech, I think all of us were grief stricken and shocked by the carnage. But in this year alone, in Chicago, we’ve had 34 Chicago public school students gunned down and killed. And for the most part, there has been silence. We know what to do. We’ve got to enforce the gun laws that are on the books. We’ve got to make sure that unscrupulous gun dealers aren’t loading up vans and dumping guns in our communities, because we know they’re not made in our communities. There aren’t any gun manufacturers here, right here in the middle of Detroit. But what we also have to do is to make sure that we change our politics so that we care just as much about those 30-some children in Chicago who’ve been shot as we do the children in Virginia Tech. That’s a mindset that we have to have in the White House and we don’t have it right now.

Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum , Jul 12, 2007

Keep guns out of inner cities--but also problem of morality

I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manfuacturer’s lobby. But I also believe that when a gangbanger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels someone disrespected him, we have a problem of morality. Not only do ew need to punish thatman for his crime, but we need to acknowledge that there’s a hole in his heart, one that government programs alone may not be able to repair.
Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.215 , Oct 1, 2006

Bush erred in failing to renew assault weapons ban

KEYES: [to Obama]: I am a strong believer in the second amendment. The gun control mentality is ruthlessly absurd. It suggests that we should pass a law that prevents law abiding citizens from carrying weapons. You end up with a situation where the crook have all the guns and the law abiding citizens cannot defend themselves. I guess that’s good enough for Senator Obama who voted against the bill that would have allowed homeowners to defend themselves if their homes were broken into.

OBAMA: Let’s be honest. Mr. Keyes does not believe in common gun control measures like the assault weapons bill. Mr. Keyes does not believe in any limits from what I can tell with respect to the possession of guns, including assault weapons that have only one purpose, to kill people. I think it is a scandal that this president did not authorize a renewal of the assault weapons ban.

Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes , Oct 21, 2004

Ban semi-automatics, and more possession restrictions

Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

A bill to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others. Voting YES would:
Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill S 397 ; vote number 2005-219 on Jul 29, 2005

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Page last updated: Sep 19, 2014