John Sigler

“The problem that progressives have on the gun issue has far less to do with the typical policies they espouse than the rhetoric they employ.” - The Third Way

“It’s critical that progressives recognize that only an aggressive outreach strategy to gun owners will ensure that your opponent’s message about your gun record does not define your candidacy.” - The Third Way

Those two instructions to so-called “progressive” political candidates explain Barack Obama’s camouflage of lies and deceptions that hide his consistent history as an aggressive proponent of virtually every aspect of gun control -- from gun-owner licensing and universal firearms registration; to criminalizing private ownership of whole generic classes of now-lawful firearms; to what I call denial of civil liberty at local option.

The bait-and-switch gimmick of employing rhetorical tricks to hide very real gun control agendas, and to create a fraudulent history to assure that “your gun record does not define your candidacy” are the central lessons offered in a political/propaganda playbook or script proffered by something called the Third Way.

Titled, “Taking back the Second Amendment,” the script is built around a central public opinion finding:  “Voters overwhelmingly support the Second Amendment and believe that it confers an individual’s right to own firearms” – a finding confirmed long ago by NRA’s own polling of American public opinion.

The Third Way’s propaganda manual is co-authored by Jim Kessler – who as then-U.S. Rep. Chuck Schumer’s policy director husbanded legislation that became the 1994 Clinton gun ban.  This political playbook is a stark study in duplicity and is word-for-word the blueprint for both Barack Obama’s stunningly empty embrace of the Second Amendment, and of the media’s total participation in this intellectually dishonest campaign of deception and obfuscation.

“Don’t let your opponent define you by your record.”

In this case, Barack Obama’s opponent is the National Rifle Association and the millions of individual citizens we represent.

Indeed, we have defined Obama’s record with a gold-standard analysis of his words and deeds.  He has earned his “F” rating, just as he’s earned the endorsement of the Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control Inc.) which universally supports registration and licensing as precursors for outright gun bans.

Yet Obama makes such statements as, “I take a back seat to no one in support of Second Amendment rights, but I also support… continuing the ban on assault weapons…  Our gun rights come with the responsibility to keep them out of the hands of criminals, terrorists and children.”

My mistake -  that’s a direct line from Kessler’s script to be memorized by poseur anti-gun candidates.

Here is a real Obama quote from an appearance in South Dakota as reported by the Boston Globe: “As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen….  We can work together to enact common-sense laws … so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals.”

And here is what appears on Obama’s campaign website:

“Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals…” Even Kessler’s former boss, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, is now talking the Third Way talk, while still walking the gun-ban walk. But while Kessler was Policy Director and gun control point-man to the then-New York Congressman, Schumer testified before an April 5, 1995 Judiciary Committee hearing on the meaning of the Second Amendment.

Schumer sputtered:  “There is no constitutional question here… If anyone tried to sell the baloney we’ll hear today, they would be arrested for consumer fraud.  The NRA’s Second Amendment is an empty cereal box in the marketplace of ideas…”

Further, Schumer said the belief that the Second Amendment was an individual right “is poisoning our political dialogue… The sickening fruit of this poisonous lie are obvious in our society…. Like flat earth fanatics, Second Amendment fanatics just don’t get it… It does not guarantee the mythical individual right to bear arms…”

 That extraordinary rant notwithstanding, Schumer said in a May 8, 2002 press release:  “The broad principle that there is an individual right to bear arms is shared by many Americans, including myself.”

Nothing Chuck Schumer espoused in 1995 has changed.  I suspect nothing in his heart-of-hearts has changed either… just the rhetoric he employs. It is the same with Barack Obama, who stands with Schumer in the forefront of the most radical supporters of oppressive gun controls.

Following the Third Way dictate about not permitting any one but himself to define his record – Obama falsely claims to be “moderate” on gun control saying he has never supported a ban on handguns.

For starters, as a member of the deep pockets Joyce Foundation board of directors from 1998 through 2001, Obama approved over $30-million in grants to fund anti-gun projects – including massive funding of the Violence Policy Center (VPC) whose singular goal is to rid America of private ownership of handguns. Obama has repeatedly voiced support for local handgun bans like Chicago’s oppressive law.

In addition, there is a long list of radical gun control strictures that Obama sloughs off now calling them “common sense gun safety.”

Obama…

-  Voted to allow reckless lawsuits designed to bankrupt the firearms industry;

-Voted for legislation that would have given government bureaucrats free rein to ban almost all rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and sport shooting;

- Would re-impose the failed and discredited Clinton Gun Ban;

-  Supports a proposal to ban gun stores within 5 miles of a school or park, which would eliminate almost every gun store in America;

-  Favors a ban on high capacity magazines;

-  Favors gun-owner licensing and gun registration; mandatory micro-stamping; mandatory waiting periods; one-gun-a-month sales restrictions; and a ban on inexpensive handguns;

- And wants to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits information on gun traces collected by the BATFE from being used in reckless lawsuits against firearm dealers and manufacturers.

There is virtually nothing in the gun control bag of tricks that Obama has not at one time or another supported. And what anti-gun measures he has not sponsored, championed or supported, his running mate, Joe Biden has. Yet, over and over he follows the Third Way script with his hollow promise about his Second Amendment.

The huge majority of Americans who believe in the Second Amendment as their personal individual right need to understand that if Obama’s wish list of “gun control” were to become law, there would be virtually nothing left of the right to keep and bear arms – especially the implicit and inherent right to self-defense.

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the D.C. gun ban case (District of Columbia v Heller), Sen. Obama and his running mate, Delaware U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (NRA-“F”) were asked to join with 55 other Senators of both parties on a friend of the court brief upholding the Second Amendment as an individual right.  They both refused, proving yet another example of “progressive policy” versus the “rhetoric they employ.”

As the Heller case was being weighed by the Federal courts, Obama’s campaign expressed his strong contention about the District of Columbia’s oppressive gun ban declaring that Obama “… believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws… Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.” (Emphasis added)

This description of Obama’s view of the D.C. law was expressed in the November 20, 2007 edition of the Chicago Tribune.  For seven months Obama never once repudiated that statement of support for D.C.’s ban.  Had it been a misstatement by his campaign as he now claims, he had ample opportunity to disavow it – but he did not.

  In fact, in a February 11, 2008 interview on Washington’s WJLA Obama was asked about his support for the D.C. gun ban, answering, “I teach constitutional law, and what I said was that I believe in the Second Amendment as being an individual right and I have said that consistently.  I also think that individual right is constrained by the right of the community to maintain issues of public safety.”  (Emphasis added)

When the interviewer said, “But you support the D.C. handgun ban and you said that it’s constitutional”.  Obama nodded gravely in the affirmative and said, “Right, right.”

During the April 16, 2008 Philadelphia Democratic debate Obama said “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…”

Over and over Obama puts forth this notion of a civil right – the liberty of individual Americans – being trumped by state and local government.

 Civil rights at local option? Isn’t that what the entire civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s was about -- ending the notion that a state or locality could trump an individual citizen’s civil rights -- like the right to vote, or the right to be a full participant in public education, or the right not to be denied access to public accommodations? Civil rights at local option; isn’t that why Rosa Parks so courageously refused to ride in the back of the Birmingham bus?

Where 50 years ago politicians stood in the schoolhouse door or blocked admission to state universities based on race, Obama would reserve the power of today’s equally oppressive local politicians – like his own Chicago boss, Mayor Richard Daley – to stand in the doorway of homes and businesses of law-abiding citizens who wish to own handguns for self defense.

Then on the day of the Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision, June 26, 2008, Obama said that the earlier statements in support of the District’s now unconstitutional ban were “inartful,” and suddenly claimed that the decision striking down the D.C. ban was in line with his vision all along.

Policies versus rhetoric -- Obama style?

Self-defense in the home with handguns was indeed the essential core of the U.S. Supreme Court’s remarkably clear decision in District of Columbia v Heller, declaring the District of Columbia’s firearms ban an unconstitutional breach of the Second Amendment as an individual right. In a 5 to 4 split decision, the high court ruled that the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns and on all operable registered long guns in the home violated the letter of the Second Amendment.  Of equal importance was the Court’s recognition of armed self-defense by ordinary citizens as an essential purpose of the Second amendment - the very spirit of the right to keep and bear arms.

In writing for the Court’s majority, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia declared:

“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” (Emphasis added)

“In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”

Finally, Justice Scalia emphatically pointed to the utility of handguns for that essential exercise of the Second Amendment:

“…the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon… and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid…” And that brings us to key points in Barack Obama’s consistently ugly record on that core protection of the Second amendment – armed self defense.

In defining Barack Obama on self-defense, we must examine the late December 2003 story of a courageous Illinois citizen -- a victim of both a potentially deadly criminal and of an oppressive local gun ban law supported by Barack Obama. Obama’s denial of a citizen’s right to armed self-protection begins with a nightmare for a Wilmette, Illinois homeowner, Hale DeMar.

While he and his children slept upstairs, Mr. DeMar woke in the dead of night to discover that his home had been invaded by a thief who took household items and keys, which he used to steal the homeowner’s automobile.  Police did virtually nothing except take a report.

As Mr. DeMar recounted to the Chicago Sun Times, “The police informed me that this was not an uncommon event in east Wilmette and offered their condolences.”

Within 24 hours of the initial crime, the burglar returned in Mr. DeMar’s stolen SUV and again entered DeMar’s home, this time using stolen keys.  Because of the weak response of police the previous night, Mr. DeMar was prepared for the worst with a handgun that he had legally purchased and kept locked in a proper safe.  Legal in most other parts of the state, Mr. DeMar’s gun was illegal to possess within the city under Wilmette’s gun ban ordinance.

Confronted by the criminal and fearing for his children, he shot the burglar who fled in DeMar’s stolen vehicle.

As it turned out, the wounded home-invader had a long rap sheet.  This guy was a dangerous career criminal.

Cook County prosecutors found Mr. DeMars’ use of his banned handgun to be justified, but Wilmette trustees pressed to prosecute him for violating the town gun ban ordinance – claiming that Mr. DeMar’s simple possession of a handgun in his home “is endangering innocent civilians…” Outrage grew exponentially among ordinary Illinois citizens, ultimately resulting in enactment of legislation making self-defense or defense of others in a home or business an affirmative defense against prosecution for possession of a banned defensive firearm in such places as Wilmette, Morton Grove and Chicago. 

In spite of Obama’s vote, the legislation passed the senate by a 38 to 20 vote.  The House margin was 86 to 25.  And he voted against armed self-defense in the home again when the Illinois Senate overrode the governor’s veto.

Like its sister city of Morton Grove, Wilmette withdrew its handgun ban soon after the Heller decision came down but Obama’s home town of Chicago remains defiant.  Chicago’s handgun ban is literally a carbon copy of D.C.’s now-illegal ban.

Even after the Heller decision, Obama still fully supports the handgun ban in his home city, Chicago.  It is a law that Mayor Richard Daley is defiantly defending in spite of the Supreme Court’s D.C. decision.  Daley, among Obama’s most powerful and influential supporters and political mentors, recently shouted at an anti-gun rally:

NO GUNS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA!”

Remarkably, where Obama believes a right can be infringed by local politicians, he also believes the inverse - that the Federal government can trump state and local laws where it serves his “progressive policy” end-game.

Once again, the issue is armed self-defense – in this case, right to carry. Just as Obama’s record clearly shows he considers laws criminalizing citizens self-defense use of firearms in the home as “common sense gun laws,” he is unalterably opposed to the concept of right to carry for ordinary law-abiding Americans – a right recognized by 38 states after hard fought legislative battles.

On April 4, 2001, Obama led a floor fight in the Illinois Senate defeating legislation that would have provided limited conceal-carry rights to persons whom a state court had determined were in imminent danger of death or bodily harm and were shielded by that court’s protective order. During the floor debate, the bill’s prime sponsor, Illinois Senator Edward Petka, repeatedly cited the Second Amendment describing his legislation as “a modest proposal which simply permits a person, who would usually be a woman, to exercise a constitutional right to defend themselves…”  Obama countered by labeling the legislation “a potential Trojan horse through which we introduce the notion that conceal carry is appropriate to our state.”

The following day, Obama issued a press statement in which he cut directly to the question of the right to self defense:

“…authorizing potential victims to carry firearms would potentially lead to a more dangerous rather than less dangerous situation for the very people we want to protect.  It was a bad idea and I’m glad it failed.”   (Emphasis added)

Headlined, “OBAMA HELPS DEFEAT CONCEALED-CARRY LEGISLATION,” Obama’s statement complained:

“Although this bill supposedly only affected people who receive an order of protection, it would have opened the door to the adoption of laws permitting all persons to carry concealed firearms on the street or in their cars.

“Concealed-carry laws would only increase the problem of hand-gun violence and ultimately make the streets less safe everywhere.”

Obama’s extreme opposition to law-abiding armed citizens in Illinois was expanded to cover all Americans as expressed in a February 20, 2004 Chicago Tribune story:

“He (Obama) backed federal legislation that would ban citizens from carrying weapons, except for law enforcement.”

The article directly quoted Obama, “National legislation will prevent other states’ flawed concealed-weapons laws from threatening the safety of Illinois residents.” (Emphasis added)

Most recently, in an April 2, 2008 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article Obama said, "I am not in favor of concealed weapons. ... I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations."

Again, in a Chicago Sun Times July 12, 2007 story headlined, “From Promise to Power,” Obama said, “I am consistently on record and will continue to be on record as opposing concealed carry.”

All of this gets us back to Jim Kessler’s “Taking Back the Second Amendment,” and the notion that rhetoric is a cover for real policy.

The words of Chuck Schumer’s 1995 rant on the Second Amendment equally apply to Obama’s 2008 reinvention of himself on the right to keep and bear arms:

“If anyone tried to sell the baloney we’ll hear today, they would be arrested for consumer fraud.”

I agree. Anyone buying Obama’s baloney on this issue simply isn’t reading the fine print.


John Sigler

John Sigler is the President of the National Rifle Association of America and has served on the NRA Board of Directors since 1996.