The Political Ramifications Of Heller
By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in 2008 | Barack Obama | D.C. v. Heller | John McCain | The Second Amendment — Comments (8) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
They are spelled out by Eugene Volokh:
There's no substitute for winning elections. The 5-4 conservative-liberal lineup (admittedly, with one of the four being a Bush, Sr. appointee) shows this. These issues aren't just about winning elections, as I'll note below. But winning is part of it. My guess is that, if the McCain campaign is smart about this, it can make this an important linchpin of its fundraising ("imagine what would happen to your rights if Justices Scalia and Kennedy retire soon and are replaced by Barack Obama"), of its attempts to energize the base, and of its attempts to bring over swing voters in swing states where the middle of the electorate tends to be pro-gun.
Note that first phrase: "There's no substitute for winning elections." It's an important point to keep in mind.
And having noted the importance of winning elections, let's examine what some of the immediate political fallout has been in response to the Court's opinion in Heller.
Read on . . .
For one thing, we see that the Obama campaign is scooting away from the issue as fast as humanly possible:
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.
The statement which Burton describes as an inaccurate representation of the senator's views was made to the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 20, 2007.
In a story entitled, "Court to Hear Gun Case," the Chicago Tribune's James Oliphant and Michael J. Higgins wrote ". . . the 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.'"
[. . .]
The Chicago Tribune clip from Nov. 20, 2007, is an inaccurate representation of Obama's views, according to Burton, because the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has refrained from developing a position on whether the D.C. gun law runs afoul of the Second Amendment.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, it behooves someone to ask whether he agrees with the opinion. Yes or no? That shouldn't be so hard. Of course, this post indicates that Obama did support the D.C. handgun ban (more here) so his previous comments stating that he didn't know where he stood are somewhat bizarre. In any event, any comment Obama now makes should be judged against the YouTube clip referenced in the post. If he comes out against the ruling in Heller, he should be asked to explain his reasoning to a country that has fallen rather overwhelmingly in favor of the proposition that people have an individual right to keep and bear arms. If he comes out in favor of the ruling, he should be asked about his referenced comments, stating that he favored the D.C. handgun ban.
Of course, preliminary campaign reactions can be found here. Obama's is vague and opaque and he seems to miss the dramatic and pathbreaking--though entirely defensible--opinion of the majority that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. So I would hope that Obama is asked specific and exact questions concerning the ruling in Heller. Obama celebrates that there are "regulations" on the right to keep and bear arms, but as the majority opinion made clear, just about all rights are subject to some kind of limitation or regulation, so Obama's comment is meaningless. He should let us know whether he believes--as the majority does--that there is an individual right to keep and bear arms that is not dependent on membership in a militia and whether he believes that the right should be incorporated against the states? If not, why not?
As Obama taught Constitutional Law, these questions should be right up his alley. I'll look forward to hearing about and reading any answers that are forthcoming.