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Press Release - A Timeline of Political Positioning on Second Amendment Rights

June 26, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA-- Throughout his time in elected office, Barack Obama has taken multiple positions on banning handguns and the D.C. handgun ban. He has stated his belief that handgun bans were constitutional and he supported them. Then he actually refused to state a position. Now, Barack Obama has issued a statement that some are reporting as an embrace of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the D.C. handgun ban while others are reporting that he is still straddling his position. Please find below a timeline of Barack Obama's support for the D.C. handgun ban and subsequent reversal:

SEPTEMBER 1996: In Response To A 1996 Independent Voters Of Illinois Questionnaire, Obama Indicated That He Supported Banning The "Manufacture, Sale And Possession Of Handguns." Question: "Do you support state legislation to ... ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?" Obama's Response: "Yes."(Independent Voters Of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization 1996 General Candidate Questionnaire, Barack Obama Responses, 9/9/96)

2004: Barack Obama Voted Against "Letting People Use A Self-Defense Argument If Charged With Violating Local Handgun Bans." "[Obama] opposed letting people use a self-defense argument if charged with violating local handgun bans by using weapons in their homes. The bill was a reaction to a Chicago-area man who, after shooting an intruder, was charged with a handgun violation." (Ryan Keith "Obama Record In State Legislature Offers Possible Ammunition For Critics," The Associated Press, 1/17/07)

NOVEMBER 2007: The Chicago Tribune Reports That The Obama Campaign Says Barack Obama "Believes The D.C. Handgun Law Is Constitutional." "[T]he campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he '...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 to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.'" (James Oliphant and Michael J. Higgins, "Court To Hear Gun Case," Chicago Tribune, 11/20/07)

FEBRUARY 2008: During An Interview, Barack Obama Acknowledged His Support For The D.C. Gun Ban. Questioner Leon Harris: "One other issue that's of great importance here in the district as well is gun control. You said in Idaho recently -- I'm quoting here -- 'I have no intention of taking away folks' guns,' but you support the D.C. handgun ban." Obama: "Right." (Leon Harris and Sen. Barack Obama, Forum Sponsored By ABC And Politico.Com, Washington, DC, 2/12/08)

In The Same Interview, Barack Obama Indicated He Feels The D.C. Gun Ban Is Constitutional. Harris: "And you've said that it's constitutional. How can you reconcile those two different positions?" Obama: "Oh, because I think we have two conflicting traditions in this country. I think it is important for us to recognize that we've got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of people, law-abiding citizens, use it for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have violence on the streets that is a result of illegal handgun use. And so, there is nothing wrong, I think, with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets ..." (Leon Harris and Sen. Barack Obama, Forum Sponsored By ABC And, Washington, DC, 2/12/08)

In This Interview, Barack Obama "Didn't Dispute The Characterization That He Believes The Ban Is Constitutional." "But a colleague points out that Obama took a question about the constitutionality of the gun ban from WJLA's Leon Harris during the Potomac Primary, and didn't dispute the characterization that he believes the ban is constitutional." (Ben Smith, "Inartful," The Politico, 6/26/08)

Watch The Interview Here:

FEBRUARY 2008: Barack Obama "Declined To Take A Position For Or Against Its Constitutionality." "Today Obama reiterated his support for tighter enforcement of laws already on the books -- such as stronger background checks and enhancing programs to trace the provenance of guns used in crimes. He would also seek to close the loopholes that currently apply to firearms purchased at gun shows. But asked today about the DC handgun ban currently being reviewed by the US Supreme Court, Obama declined to take a position for or against its Constitutionality but did express broad support for the rights of local jurisdictions to make such decisions for themselves." (David Wright, Ursula Fahy And Sunlen Miller, "Obama: 'Common Sense Regulation' On Gun Owners' Rights," ABC News, 2/15/08)

MARCH 2008: Obama Campaign "Would Not Elaborate On Whether The Senator Supports The D.C. Gun Ban." "Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, said Mr. Obama 'believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he greatly respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms.' 'He also believes that the Constitution permits state and local governments to adopt reasonable and common-sense gun safety measures,' she said, but would not elaborate on the whether the senator supports the D.C. gun ban." (Gary Emerling, "Nation Awaits D.C. Handgun Ruling," The Washington Times, 3/17/08)

APRIL 2008: Barack Obama Says "I Confess I Obviously Haven't Listened To The Briefs And Looked At All The Evidence." CHARLIE GIBSON: "Senator Obama, the District of Columbia has a law -- it's had a law since 1976; it's now before the United States Supreme Court -- that prohibits ownership of handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a machine gun or a short-barrelled rifle. Is that a law consistent with an individual's right to bear arms?" OBAMA: "Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence. 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, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use i t. And I think that it is going to be important for us to reconcile what are two realities in this country. There's the reality of gun ownership and the tradition of gun ownership that's passed on from generation to generation. You know, when you listen to people who have hunted, and they talk about the fact that they went hunting with their fathers or their mothers, then that is something that is deeply important to them and, culturally, they care about deeply. But you also have the reality of what's happening here in Philadelphia and what's happening in Chicago." (Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate, Philadelphia, PA, 4/16/08

JUNE 2008: Barack Obama Says He Wants To "Wait And See How The Supreme Court Comes Down." OBAMA: "What I have said is that I do not -- what I have said is, is that I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but I do not think that that precludes local governments being able to provide some commonsense gun laws that keep guns out of the hands of gangbangers or children, that local jurisdictions are going to have different sets of problems, and that this is a very fact-intensive decision that has to be made. But I do think that the Second Amendment is an individual right. So, what I would like to do is wait and see how the Supreme Court comes down, and evaluate the actual reasoning in the case to see how broad or narrow the decision's going to be." (Barack Obama, Press Conference, Chicago, IL, 6/25/08)

JUNE 2008: The Obama Campaign Says An Unnamed Was "Inartful" In Telling The Chicago Tribune That Barack Obama Thought The Handgun Ban Was Constitutional "With the Supreme Court poised to rule on Washington, D.C.'s, gun ban, the Obama campaign is disavowing what it calls an 'inartful' statement to the Chicago Tribune last year in which an unnamed aide characterized Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as believing that the DC ban was constitutional. 'That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator's consistent position,' Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News." (Teddy Davis And Alexa Ainsworth, "Obama Camp Disavows Last Year's 'Inartful' Statement On D.C. Gun Law," ABC News, 6/26/08)

JUNE 2008: ABC News' Jake Tapper Says Barack Obama Is "Embracing The 5-4 Decision, Written By Justice Antonin Scalia, That Struck Down The DC Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional." "Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, may have a long record of supporting gun control measures, and he may have seemed to have previously endorsed the DC Handgun Ban. But just now he issued a paper statement embracing the 5-4 decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, that struck down the DC Handgun Ban as unconstitutional." (Jake Tapper, "Obama Embraces Supreme Court Decision As 'Well-Needed Guidance,'" ABC News, 6/26/08)

JUNE 2008: Politico's Jonathan Martin Says Barack Obama "Plainly Trying To Straddle Here." "He's plainly trying to straddle here. It actually sounds -- especially the 'Cheyenne and Chicago' language -- quite a bit like the language Howard Dean used in '04 when trying to reconcile gun views tailored for pro-gun Vermont with a Dem primary." (Jonathan Martin, "Obama Careful On Heller," Politico, 6/26/08)

JUNE 2008: Now, This Afternoon, Barack Obama Says "I've Been Very Consistent, I Teach Constitutional Law" Despite His Numerous Contradictory Positions. "Craig Layne, a reporter from WJET-TV in Erie, Penn., today asked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, a question on the DC gun ban. Here's how the exchange went down. 'In November you mentioned that the DC handgun law was constitutional,' Layne said. 'Now you're embracing the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision striking down that law---' 'That's not what I said,' Obama interrupted, per ABC News' Jennifer Duck. 'Your aide said that,' Layne clarified. 'I don't know what my aide said but I've been very consistent, I teach constitutional law," Obama said. What I said was that I believe 2nd Amendment as being an individual right and have said that consistently. I also think that individual right is constrained by the rights of the community to maintain issues with public safety. I don't thi nk those two principles are contradictory and in fact what I've been saying consistently is what the Supreme Court essentially said today.'" (Jake Tapper, "Obama Eager To Distance Self From Campaign's Former Position On DC Handgun Ban," ABC News, 6/26/08)

John McCain, Press Release - A Timeline of Political Positioning on Second Amendment Rights Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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