Lots of discussion today on what, exactly, Barack Obama's thoughts were on the Heller case and DC gun ban. Back in November, a staffer told the Chicago Tribune that Obama thought the ban was constitutional. The Obama campaign has backed away from that language as "inartful." This past spring, in an interview with Leon Harris, Obama seemed once again to agree -- at least by failing to object to the premise of the question -- that the DC gun ban was constitutional.
But last winter, Obama had a different view. He suggested that the Supreme Court would rule as it did today and indicated that such a ruling would be "a fair reading of the text of the Constitution."
On December 5, 2007, about one month before the Iowa caucuses, Obama took a question on gun control at an event at Cornel College. He brought up the DC case without prompting. Here is the exchange:
What would be your administration's stance toward the 2nd amendment and gun control.?
As many of you know, there's a Supreme Court case that's going to be decided soon about what the Second Amendment means. I taught Constitutional Law for ten years. So I've got an opinion. And my opinion is that the second amendment is probably, is an individual right, not just the right of a militia. That's what I expect the Supreme Court to rule. I think that's a fair reading of the text of the Constitution. So I respect the right of lawful gun owners to hunt, fish, protect their families. I respect that. Like all rights, they are constrained and bound by the needs of the community. So I have a right to free speech but I can't just yell fire in this auditorium. I could be prosecuted for that because we've got a larger community interest in preventing mayhem. So when I look at Chicago and 34 Chicago public school students gunned down in a single school year, then I don't think that the second amendment prohibits us from taking action to ensure that, for example, that ATF can share tracing information about illegal handguns that are used on the streets and track them to the gun dealers to find out: What are you doing? And are you just selling them to anybody and filling our hands full of handguns that wind up on the streets and are killing kids? The point being that there's a tradition of gun ownership in this country that can be respected that is not mutually exclusive with making sure that we are shutting down gun trafficking that is killing kids on our streets. And part of the problem that I have with the NRA is not whether or not people have the right to bear arms but they believe and constraint or regulation whatsoever is something that they have to beat back. And I don't think that's how most lawful firearms owners think. I think most of them think: â€˜If I'm doing what's right, if I'm keeping my gun locked down in my home, I understand the safety, I've been trained. My rights are not being encroached if we make sure that we don't have children or criminals or others purchasing handguns causing death and destruction on the streets of urban communities all across the country.'