Jacob Sullum

"What works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne," Barack Obama said after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Washington, D.C., gun ban. The Illinois senator was talking about gun control laws, but he could just as well have been talking about his interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Although the amendment protects an individual right to arms, Obama says, it permits "common-sense" gun control, a category that for him seems to include every existing restriction on the possession and use of firearms. That view not only does not fly in Cheyenne (and in many other places where presidential candidates aspire to win votes); it was decisively rejected by the Supreme Court.

"I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms," Obama said after the ruling was announced, "but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view."

Not quite. The Court concluded that the D.C. gun law, which "bans handgun possession in the home" and "requires that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times, rendering it inoperable," violates the Second Amendment because it effectively prohibits keeping guns for self-defense.

Last November, by contrast, Obama's campaign told the Chicago Tribune "Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional." The candidate was so upset about that misrepresentation of his views that he sought to correct it -- seven months later. A few hours before the Supreme Court pronounced the D.C. gun ban unconstitutional, an Obama spokesman told "ABC News" his campaign's November statement to the contrary "was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the senator's consistent position."

That belated blurification was an inartful attempt to avoid explaining the senator's consistent position, which he has repeatedly confirmed. In a Feb. 12 interview, Leon Harris of WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, said to Obama, "You support the D.C. handgun ban, and you've said that it's constitutional." Obama nodded, saying, "Right, right." Three days later, at a press conference in Milwaukee, Obama cited the D.C. law as an example of gun control that's consistent with the Second Amendment.


Jacob Sullum

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