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President Obama and Senator Lautenberg’s Push for Gun Control

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

That’s what Rahm Emanuel, then-Chief of Staff to President-elect Barack Obama
said after the 2008 election. Apparently, exploiting the tragic shootings in Colorado is no exception. The president is considering ideas that would erode your Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms,” calling for “common sense” gun control in a speech to the National Urban League Convention last week.

The mayor of New York City and organizer of Mayors Against Illegal Guns wasted no time in arguing that Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney need to answer the question, “What are they going to do about guns?”

Information in the public domain indicates that these attacks may have been planned for months and that the alleged killer sent a package to the University of Colorado on July 12 that may have documented his plan. He may have had a Batman poster on his wall at home and identified himself as an evil character in a Batman movie. Also, the alleged perpetrator may have amassed an arsenal of bombs, guns and ammunition to prepare for the attacks.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a strong advocate against Second Amendment rights, wasted no time in filing Senate Amendment 2575 to the Senate cyber security legislation expected to be debated this week. MSNBC describes the amendment as legislation “to ban high-capacity gun magazines that allow shooters to fire off multiple rounds in quick succession.” Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are co-sponsoring this amendment.

This amendment raises serious and grave constitutional concerns. Given that it would ban clips with more than ten rounds, it would seem to fall into a category that may fail the Heller test. In the landmark Supreme Court case
District of Columbia v. Heller , 554 U.S. 570 (2008) the Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm.

On page 64 of the Opinion of the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “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.” The Lautenberg approach may not pass constitutional muster. This language may functionally ban a number of handguns, including smaller handguns, which are often used by women for self defense. The impact of this legislation merits further constitutional hearings and investigation.

President Obama, in his speech to the National Urban League, said that, “I also believe that a lot of gun-owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals -- that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun-owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun-seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn’t be controversial. They should be common sense." The emotional language in President Obama’s speech indicates that he may be willing to promote and support the Lautenberg Amendment.

The problem is that Obama makes some wild assumptions in his speech. We all know that criminals are not allowed to purchase firearms. Also, a prohibition on people found by a court to be mentally unstable does not seem to fit what we know about the Colorado alleged perpetrator. Evidently, President Obama is abiding by his former chief of staff’s sentiments -- that liberals should exploit this tragic shooting, if it will help erode Second Amendment rights.

Mitt Romney did not take the bait. He has said , "I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws." He also argued: "We can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."

Using the power of the presidency to help change the hearts of all Americans on this issue of pervasive violence in society, on television and in movies is a far better approach than Sen. Lautenberg’s heavy-handed effort to implement a far reaching and potentially unconstitutional restriction of firearms and ammunition.

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