Jacob Sullum

This is the only substantive discussion of the Second Amendment on Obama's Web site. It's part of a document that lists "Protecting Gun Rights" as a subcategory of "Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Sportsmen," which is like listing "Protecting Freedom of Speech" as a subcategory of "Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Auctioneers."

It's true that hunting -- at the time an important source of sustenance, as opposed to the hobby it has become for most Americans -- was one of the gun uses the Framers had in mind when they guaranteed the right to arms. But as the D.C. Circuit emphasized when it found Washington's gun law unconstitutional, "the people's right to arms was auxiliary to the natural right of self-preservation," which was "understood as the right to defend oneself against attacks by lawless individuals, or, if absolutely necessary, to resist and throw off a tyrannical government."

Because Obama ignores these aspects of the Second Amendment, he sees no constitutional barrier to a complete ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns, which he supported when he ran for the Illinois Senate in 1996. Two years later, he said he favored a ban on the sale or transfer of all semiautomatic firearms, which would cover not only most handguns but also many hunting rifles and shotguns as well.

Responding to criticism that Obama has since changed his position on gun control, his campaign declares that "Obama has been consistent." If so, consistent civil libertarians -- the ones who do not mentally skip from the First Amendment to the Fourth -- should be worried.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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