Many gun owners had, at the least, an uneasy feeling when Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) won the presidential election on November 4, 2008.
“Uneasy” because, even though Obama made numerous claims of support for the Second Amendment, the jury was and is definitely out as to what President-elect Obama may eventually offer up in the way of gun rights support — or gun control.
Making the situation potentially even worse, Democrats control both houses of Congress, and their ranks include some of the top anti-gunners in American politics, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Any anti-gun legislation, originating from either the White House or Congress, would therefore have a relatively easy time being approved.
“If you look at the voting record of the president-elect and vice president-elect [Delaware Senator Joe Biden], you'll see that they have voted for and supported draconian gun control measures again and again,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association (NRA), in the St. Petersburg Times. “I think hunters and gun owners see a perfect storm coming for the gun-control lobby to exploit.”
Gun Sales Soar in Anticipation of Gun Bans
Fearing that storm, many Americans apparently took the most basic action to secure their rights: they started buying up guns!
According to the New York Times, “Sales of handguns, rifles and ammunition have surged in the last week [before the election], according to gun store owners around the nation who describe a wave of buyers concerned that an Obama administration will curtail their right to bear arms.”
“He’s a gun-snatcher,” Jim Pruett, owner of Jim Pruett’s Guns and Ammo in northwest Houston, told the New York Times, while his gun shop was packed with shoppers.
“A spot check by reporters in four other states easily found Mr. Pruett’s comments echoed from both sides of the counter,” the New York Times continued. “David Nelson, a co-owner of Montana Ordnance & Supply in Missoula, Mont., said his buyers were ‘awake and aware and see a dangerous trend’…In Colorado, would-be gun buyers set a one-day record [on the]…Saturday [just before the election] with the highest number of background check requests in a 24-hour period, according to figures from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI).”
“We’re not really sure who is promoting the concept that a change in federal administrations might affect firearms possession rights,” said [CBI] spokesman, Lance Clem, “but we do know that it’s increased business considerably.”
Media outlets from around the nation reported a flurry of gun sales immediately following Obama’s victory. Most gun shop owners and their customers cited the fear that an Obama Administration would promote and pass numerous anti-gun laws.
Bob Warren, owner of the Skyway Skeet and Trap Club, in St. Petersburg, Florida, spoke for many when he told the St. Petersburg Times, “We're not sure what he's [Obama] got planned, but we don't think he's got our best interests at heart.”
“This sounds like an Obama effect,” said Gary Kleck, a professor at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Kleck pointed out that the current spike in gun sales paralleled a similar gun-buying rush just before Bill Clinton's 1994 crime bill, which included the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban.”
Gun Groups Slam Obama's Anti-Gun Record
As an election round-up by the Gun Owners Of America (GOA) noted, “Obama ran a campaign high on rhetoric and short on specifics. The President-elect claims he will govern from the middle, but the question for gun owners is which Obama will show up at the White House — the ‘centrist’ from the campaign trail, or the radical anti-Second Amendment extremist who supports gun bans, waiting periods for firearm purchases, one gun a month restrictions, and more?”
One of President-elect Obama’s first decisions was a huge concern to gun owners: making Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Illinois’ 5th District, his White House chief of staff.
According to the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA): “Emanuel was ‘point man’ on gun ban efforts for the Clinton Administration.”
“Mr. Obama, whose history on gun rights is abysmal, appears to be considering his party’s most extremist gun control advocates for key positions in his administration,” CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb said. “That is not a sign of goodwill toward gun owners or their rights. It’s a red flare warning of high winds and rough weather looming on the political horizon.”
The NRA agreed. In a post-election summary, the NRA noted, “We know the people Obama will appoint to his cabinet and to other federal offices will be almost universally anti-gun. Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff is a perfect example of the hostility the Obama White House will have for gun owners’ rights.”
The NRA continued, “The threats to our rights under Barack Obama are real. If we are going to protect those rights, we have to start work now, preparing for legislative, executive and regulatory assaults at every level of government. Some will be open attacks, such as reintroduction of the Clinton gun ban. Others will be stealthier, such as unleashing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to harass even more gun dealers and force them out of business. Regardless of how they attack our rights, we will have to respond.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) noted another disturbing situation. “President-elect Obama's Web site had posted his administration's agenda for curtailing the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans, thereby validating the concerns of gun owners, sportsmen and firearms enthusiasts all across the country. Curiously, the Obama-Biden gun control agenda was taken down from the Web site after just two days.”
That agenda may well be the blue-print for future federal legislation.
Congressional Power-Shift Equally Disturbing
Concerning Congress, some substantial losses for the Second Amendment occurred. According to GOA, “many [Congressional] seats that flipped parties also went from strong pro-gun to strong anti-gun.” In the Senate, GOA noted that four seats in particular went from Republican to Democrat, and an “A” rating by GOA to newly elected lawmakers with a past “F” rating.
As GOA noted, in Colorado, “The retirement of A-rated Senator Wayne Allard set up a battle between anti-gun Rep. Mark Udall and pro-gun former Rep. Bob Schaffer. This is one of three senate seats that flipped from A to F.” New Hampshire was another example, where “Pro-gun Senator John Sununu was defeated by F-rated former governor Jeanne Shaheen…” In New Mexico, “Long-time Senator Pete Domenici, who was D-rated and usually voted against gun owners, was replaced by F-rated Congressman Tom Udall. Udall defeated A-rated Representative Steve Pearce, making this a big loss for gun owners.”
North Carolina was another state where gun rights took a beating. “Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole ran as a pro-gun control candidate for president in 2000. Since being elected to the Senate from the Tar Heel state, however, Mrs. Dole compiled a good pro-gun record. Dole's defeat at the hands of F-rated anti-gunner Kay Hagan is a dramatic flip for gun rights.”
“In the battle for the U.S. House of Representatives, gun owners also were hit hard,” GOA continued. “Of the 18 incumbents who were defeated, 15 were pro-gun (only two were replaced by a pro-gunner). Of particular disappointment to gun owners were the losses of Republican representatives Marilyn Musgrave (CO-4), Tom Feeney (FL-24), Bill Sali (ID-1), and Tim Walberg (MI-7). These representatives were among the most ardent Second Amendment supporters.”
Not that the 2008 elections were all bad news for gun owners.
Amidst Bleak Picture, Minor Gains
As GOA noted, “In the 32 open House seats, the results were mixed. Thirteen seats went to A-rated candidates, while six went to F-rated anti-gunners. Nine new congressmen are ‘Not Rated,’ meaning they have no record and refused to fill out a GOA questionnaire. Four new members fall somewhere in the middle, leaning toward a pro-gun position but no guarantees.”
According to Ashley Varner, NRA spokesperson, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund endorsed 23 candidates for 2008 U.S. Senate races. Of these, the NRA-endorsed candidate won in at least 14 races, with the outcome still uncertain, at press time, in Alaska, Georgia, Minnesota and Oregon. Three of these pro-gun Senate freshmen include Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Varner added, “Of the 248 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed by the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, the NRA-endorsed candidate won in at least 216 of these races, with the outcome still uncertain in six races.”
The pro-gun and pro-hunting U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) took some comfort in state races. “Preliminary results show that out of eleven gubernatorial races, only one changed political parties,” a USSA release noted. “This indicates a remarkable level of stability at the state government level. In a nutshell, for many day-to-day issues confronting sportsmen, the outcome of the election doesn’t appear to radically change things.”
In the larger sense, too, it must be remembered that gun control as an issue—as a way for politicians to make some political hay and grab some votes—has certainly been discredited. As the NRA noted,
“The gun control lobby must be distressed that many Democratic gains occurred only because the party has run so far from the gun control issue. While they fondly look back to how actively Bill Clinton campaigned for gun control in 1992 and 1996, they also remember the lesson that gun owners taught an anti-gun Congress in 1994, Al Gore in 2000, and John Kerry in 2004. This was a lesson taught by the National Rifle Association that has changed the politics of our issue across the country.”
Gun owners will find out how well this “lesson” was learned, and if our politicians will need to re-learn it well before in the next election cycle, the 2010 Congressional races, and will make their feelings known.
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