Barack Obama on Gun Control
Junior Senator (IL); President-Elect
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:
Announced retirement as of 2010:
Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
Senate Votes (analysis)