Obama Vulnerable on Firearms Issue; Clinton Staying Clear of It

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

Obama Vulnerable on Firearms Issue; Clinton Staying Clear of It


Byline: S.A. Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania sportsmen aren't "bitter" about their guns and balk at what they call Sen. Barack Obama's double-talk in courting their support.

In a state that boasts one of the country's highest per capita rates of membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA), Mr. Obama's stance that Second Amendment gun rights are compatible with new tough gun laws falls flat.

And it didn't help when he said the state's "bitter" small-town voters hurt by the economy were not supporting him because they "cling" to religion, guns and anti-immigrant views.

"It just tells me he is anti-gun," said Debbie Schultz, owner of Schultz's Sportsmens Stop in Apollo, Pa., about 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

"We don't need more gun laws and we don't need tougher gun laws, the ones we've got are pretty stringent," said Mrs. Schultz, 53, who has been selling sporting and target firearms for 39 years. "You can't keep a thug from getting a gun [unless] you try to take all the guns from every gun owner and that will never happen in the United States."

Rocco S. Ali, president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said the two viewpoints embraced by Mr. Obama are incompatible.

"He's tried to satisfy both sides [but] they don't go together," said Mr. Ali, whose organization represents about 95,000 hunters and outdoorsmen in more than 350 clubs.

He said Mr. Obama's pledge to go after "straw purchasers" who dump guns in crime-plagued urban neighborhoods is a pretext for new restrictions that make it harder for everyone to buy firearms. Existing federal and state laws, he said, authorize law-enforcement agencies to investigate any firearm purchase.

Both Mr. Obama and his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have shied from riling gun owners on the campaign trail, especially in this divergent state where inner city politicians' desire for stricter gun rules clash with its hunting history.

Neither has taken a position on the historic case before the U.S. Supreme Court over whether the District's ban on handguns violates the Constitution's Second Amendment. The court, taking up the Second Amendment "right to keep and bear arms" for the first time in 69 years, is expected to rule in June.

Likewise, the two candidates did not sign a bipartisan amicus curiae brief filed in the Supreme Court that supported the amendment's guarantee of individual gun rights and opposed the District's law. The "friend of the court" brief was signed by 250 House members and 55 senators, including presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

And both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, despite talking up her support of gun rights, say they would reinstate the assault-weapon ban, which the Republican-led Congress allowed to expired in 2004.

"They think they can disguise their real position," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said of the Democratic contenders. "The campaign rhetoric doesn't match [Mr. Obama's] voting record at all. .. He's not pro-Second Amendment"

The NRA gave an "F" grade to Mr. Obama's and Mrs. Clinton's voting records, which include votes to ban certain types of ammunition and to make firearm manufactures liable for gun violence. Mr. McCain got a "C."

Although Mr. McCain has a strong gun rights voting record, he supports campaign-finance laws that limit political advocacy by issue groups, such as the NRA, and supports tighter firearms sales regulations at gun shows. …

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