During tonight’s State of the Union address you can rest assured that you’re going to hear a lot about guns. It’s become one of Barack Obama’s signature issues in the closing months of his presidency, and there’s no small amount of irony in using the term “signature” given his propensity for signing executive orders. One thing we can expect the President to repeat is his ongoing assurance that he doesn’t want to make it “harder” for any law abiding citizen to obtain and own a weapon. He’ll talk about his respect for the Second Amendment. But given his history it’s difficult to see how anyone would take him very seriously regarding these claims.
One good data point to nail down on this comes in a piece at The Daily Caller by Dr. John Lott, President of the Crime Prevention Research Center. He has some personal experience on the subject since he knew the President when they were both at the University of Chicago Law School. He focuses on remarks which Obama made during his recent CNN “Town Hall” on guns. (See update below)
The president forcefully claimed: “I respect the Second Amendment; I respect the right to bear arms; I respect people who want a gun for self-protection.”
Well, here’s another quote: “I don’t believe people should be able to own guns.” That’s what Obama told me when we were colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School in 1996. Obama has also publicly supported a nationwide “ban [on] the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns” as well as a “ban the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons.” Even as late as the 2008 Presidential primaries, Obama supported Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban.
From inaccurate claims about Congress restricting firearms research to failure to explain that virtually everyone stopped by background checks are law-abiding citizens who have a name similar to the people we want to stop, a lot more corrections could be made.
We’ve spoken quite a bit recently about the “evolution” which many politicians experience on various issues of the day, frequently in rather suspicious circumstances when you match these changes of heart with shifts in the national polls. I suppose it’s possible that the past twenty years might have exposed Barack Obama to new ideas on gun rights and modified his thinking in some fashion, but going from, I don’t believe people should be able to own guns all the way to I respect the right to bear arms is one heck of an evolution.
Lott goes into a few other inaccuracies (to put it kindly) which cropped up in the Town Hall meeting.
When rape survivor Kimberly Corban asked why she shouldn’t be able to carry a gun to protect herself, Obama said his current executive actions won’t make it harder for her to purchase a firearm. He claimed, he isn’t proposing anything that “prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.”
Obama’s proposed expanded background checks will make guns more expensive, perhaps prohibitively so for poorer people. In DC, where Obama was speaking from, expanded background checks add about $125 to the cost of transferring a gun.
After the event, CNN brought in conservative commentators such as SE Cupp. However, they failed to understand the issues here. It’s not just that the laws won’t do any good — they will also come with some real costs. These laws won’t stop mass public shootings, but they will hurt law-abiding citizens.
The fact that the President, unable to obtain an extensive ban on gun ownership through the powers of Congress, might suggest or mandate policies which drive up the price of weapons and ammunition is a feature, not a bug. It’s part and parcel of the overall strategy of Democrats at all levels in the current era. Banning gun ownership is tremendously unpopular and can cost vulnerable Democrats their seats so they seek other approaches which are a bit more below the radar. We already saw this in both Washington State and Oregon recently, where taxes are either being considered or already levied to “pay for the damage done by guns.” If the President is talking about respect for gun rights and then discussing changes to the system in the next breath, you can rest assured that the price of weapons and ammunition is going to be heading upward.
That 1996 quote is the one that really got me, though. Keep that in mind tonight if you plan on sitting through the SoTU address. (Or you can spare yourself the frustration and do something fun since we have to watch it for you.) Just remember that you’re hearing proposals from a man who came from a starting point of believing that nobody should be able to own a gun. Then he took an oath to lead the nation and support and defend the Constitution which assures your gun rights. You do the math from there.
The original version of this article used the phrase “attending the University of Chicago Law School” which was misleading. Dr. Lott has pointed out that they were teaching there, and the original wording could have been taken to imply they were students.