On March 24, a reader e-mailed The Washington Post that "Obama supports the D.C. law" and demanded a correction. That was based on an Associated Press account of Obama's Milwaukee press conference asserting that "he voiced support for the District of Columbia's ban on handguns." In fact, all he said he was: "The notion that somehow local jurisdictions can't initiate gun safety laws to deal with gang bangers and random shootings on the street isn't born out by our Constitution."
That leaves Obama unrevealed on the D.C. law. In response to my inquiry about his specific position, Obama's campaign e-mailed me a one paragraph answer: Obama believes that while the "Second Amendment creates an individual right ... he also believes that the Constitution permits federal, state and local government to adopt reasonable and common sense gun safety measures." Though the paragraph is titled "Obama on the D.C. Court case," the specific gun ban is never mentioned. I tried again, without success, last week to learn Obama's position before writing this column.
Obama's dance on gun rights is part of his evolution from a radical young state legislator a few years ago. He was recorded in a 1996 questionnaire as advocating a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns (a position since disavowed). He was on the board of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which takes an aggressive gun control position, and in 2000 considered becoming its full-time president. In 2006, he voted with an 84 to 16 majority (and against Clinton) to prohibit confiscation of firearms during an emergency, but that is his only pro-gun vote in Springfield or Washington. The National Rifle Association (NRA) grades him (and Clinton) at "F." There is no anti-gun litmus test for Democrats. In 2006, Ted Strickland was elected governor of Ohio and Bob Casey U.S. senator from Pennsylvania with NRA grades of "A." Following their model, Obama talks about the rights of "Americans to protect their families." He has not yet stated whether that right should exist in Washington, D.C. To find out more about Robert D. Novak and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
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