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Obama's gun problem

August 09, 2008|By James Warner

Barak Obama has a problem. It is a problem that has plagued Democrats for years. It lost the 1988 election for Michael Dukakis. It lost the 2000 election for Al Gore. It probably lost the 2004 election for John Kerry. It lost control of Congress for 12 years for Democrats. It could lose the 2008 election for Obama. The problem is guns. Democrats know that they have this problem. They don't know how to respond to it.

Several years ago I saw the results of a survey that was privately conducted. The Survey showed that for 7 million to 10 million voters the protection of the private ownership of firearms was the first and most important factor in deciding how to vote. Since the founding of the National Weapon Association in 1871, only one candidate for president had the backing of the NRA and lost: Winfield Scott Hancock who lost to James Garfield in the very close election of 1880.

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Why is this a problem for Democrats? For many years Democrats have taken actions that alienated gun owners and caused them to drift toward the Republican party. However, there was one single event which made this drift a cascade: the ban on so called "assault weapons" which Clinton signed on Sept. 13, 1994, less than two months before the mid-term elections.

The campaign to ban these guns was based on a fraud. For many years manufacturers made firearms that looked like military firearms, even though the civilian guns were only semi-automatics. In 1988 anti-gun strategists devised a plan to use the scary appearance of these guns to deceive the public into equating them with machine guns. The plan was to deceive the general public, and law enforcement agencies, who would believe that the "gun lobby" was defending drug dealers and machine guns. Obviously, the hoax worked. In 2004, as the law was about to die due to a sunset provision, political police chiefs around the country raised the alarm that "assault weapons" were about to flood the streets.

The reality is that only one of the guns which fit the definition went out of production for more than a day after the ban was enacted. Production eventually stopped for this gun because it was awkward and had a terrible reputation for unreliability. The ban did not affect it. All other guns were merely modified slightly in appearance or name and production continued throughout the period of the ban.

The general public, many liberal politicians and the political police chiefs obviously did not know this. Gun owners, however, were only too well aware of the hoax and the purpose behind it. They knew that it was the camel's nose under the tent and reacted furiously, voting the Democrats out of power. They have not forgotten and do not trust Democrats, even if the Democrats say that they are not anti-gun. Unless Barak Obama fixes this, he could lose the election.

There is something which Obama might do to start to regain trust. He has said that he believes the Second Amendment protects an individual right.

For many years Democratic presidential candidates have promised that they will apply the litmus test of abortion when appointing judges. Let Obama promise that he will also apply the litmus test of a constitutionally protected right of individuals to keep and bear arms. There's your challenge Senator Obama. Let's see your response.

James H. Warner is an attorney who retired from the NRA Legal Office. He represented one of the Sheriffs who successfully challenged the Brady Law and filed an amicus curiae brief in the recent Second Amendment case. He served as a domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan from 1985 until 1989.

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