Op-Ed: The Democrats and Gun Control
By David Kopel
Imagine an election race of Pat Robertson versus James Dobson, each of them appearing at organic grocery stores and Starbucks throughout Massachusetts, with each candidate insisting that he alone deserves the vote of gay-marriage advocates. An equally silly spectacle is taking place these days in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky, as Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama compete for the pro-gun vote.
Mr. Obama supports the Second Amendment – or so his surrogates have been claiming all over Pennsylvania, the state with the highest per-capita membership in the National Rifle Association. The effort was set back last weekend with the publication of Mr. Obama's remarks claiming that people in small towns in Pennsylvania and other Midwestern states "cling" to guns because they are "bitter" that the government has not solved their economic problems.
Mrs. Clinton shot back with an excellent speech in Valparaiso, Ind., recounting that her father had taught her how to shoot when she was a little girl. "People enjoy hunting and shooting because it's an important part of who they are," she said. "Not because they are bitter."
Surely she is right. The shooting sports culture in Pennsylvania was thriving long before the domestic manufacture of steel began to decline. Indeed, that culture was thriving before steel was invented. Pennsylvania's 1776 state constitution declared "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state . . ." A separate provision guaranteed "the liberty to fowl and hunt in seasonable times."
However, having the right to arms and the liberty to hunt is worthless if you can't buy a gun. In 1999, Mr. Obama urged enactment of a federal law prohibiting the operation of any gun store within five miles of a school or park. This would eliminate gun stores from almost the entire inhabited portion of the United States.
...Yet, as Mr. Obama has mockingly pointed out, Mrs. Clinton is not exactly a modern-day Annie Oakley wiling away weekends in a duck blind. As first lady, she helped organize the Million Mom March for "sensible gun laws" in 2000. It was led by the shrill gun prohibitionist Rosie O'Donnell.
Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly voted for antigun proposals, and co-sponsored many of them.
...A presidential candidate could of course swear devotion to the First Amendment, while declaring that the amendment's purpose is to protect sports reporting and book collecting. And that candidate could still support government lawsuits against publishers, local bans on newspapers, and draconian restrictions on political commentary.
Civil libertarians who supported such a candidate because of his alleged love for the First Amendment would be foolish. Civil libertarians who support Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton because of their purported fealty to the Second Amendment may be bitterly disappointed.
Click here to read the entire op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.