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Did Obama Lie About Guns?

12:06 PM, Apr 17, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Amidst the pummeling he took last night, did Barack Obama lie about his position on guns? There's been a lot of attention to the questionnaire he filled out for a local organization when he first ran for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. This is from the debate last night:

Mr. GIBSON: But do you still favor the registration of guns? Do you still favor the licensing of guns?

And in 1996, your campaign issued a questionnaire, and your writing was on the questionnaire that said you favored a ban on handguns.

SENATOR OBAMA: No, my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire, Charlie. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.

Here's the questionnaire (H/T: The Politico). You'll note that there's only one place -- on the front page of the questionnaire -- where someone has handwritten an extensive answer about endorsements. When asked about it, Obama's campaign "did not dispute" that the handwriting was his. At the very end of the questionnaire comes the section on handguns:


Clearly Obama is familiar with the questionnaire by now, and contrary to earlier indications from his campaign, he denies the handwriting is his. Short of a handwriting expert weighing in, it probably ought not matter that much. Obama has a voting record on guns now -- not a very good one as far as gun rights advocates go, but he has one. If he then supported outlawing guns, he ought to acknowledge that he has changed his mind.

And what was his actual position at the time? The interest group for which he filled out the questionnaire, and which later interviewed him, seems pretty clear that he did:

...One board member of the group, Lois Dobry, called his campaign's explanation "ridiculous," though another former board member, Deborah McCoy, said she had no reason to dispute the campaign's version.

"We suspect this is just a case of an overeager staff member...trying to change his boss' record ex post facto to more closely agree with positions the staffer thought were most likely to get him elected now," wrote Lois and Alan Dobry, long-time Hyde Park Democratic activists, who recalled -- based on notes from the time and their memories -- hosting a September 9, 1996 meeting between IVI-IPO and Obama, then a candidate for Illinois State Senate...

The Dobrys wrote that Obama got a unanimous, 13-0 vote of support from the group.

"To get that sort of a vote in a very liberal district, he had to be a supporter of liberal positions," they wrote. they also wrote that they saw no "significant difference" between his current positions and those on the questionnaire...

Having worked for a number of elected officials, I'd be surprised if Obama did fill out this survey himself. It's been my experience that such duties frequently fall to staff -- although in many cases the elected official checks the document for accuracy once that work is done. When initially questioned regarding this, that seemed to be the Obama campaign position -- until the candidate denied any role last night.

But if that is Obama's handwriting on the first page, it's hard to believe he did not at least peruse the entire document. And if the group interviewed him and found no discrepancy between the survey and the interview, then how likely is it that the survey was wrong?

I have to think the Clinton campaign is chasing this issue down right now.