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Has Obama Opened the Gun Control Pandora's Box?

2:31 PM, Apr 17, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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In his joint press conference with Mexican President Calderon yesterday, Barack Obama reaffirmed his support for an assault weapons ban. At the same time, he seems to regard it as an essentially unachievable goal:

I have not backed off at all from my belief that the gun -- the assault weapons ban made sense. And I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we now know, here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence -- violence in our own country, as well.

Now, having said that, I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy. And so, what we've focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws, because even under current law, trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across a border, is illegal. That's something that we can stop.

Like many gun control advocates, Barack Obama wants to make something which is already prohibited even 'more illegal'. But while most gun control backers avoid revealing this fact, Obama owns up to it -- when he acknowledges that while it's legal to manufacture or own 'assault weapons,' it is illegal to ship them across the border. Apparently in Obama's mind, soldiers in drug cartels that are beheading police officers will be frightened about another weapons charge.

Later in the press conference, Obama said that he wants the Senate to approve the OAS treaty against illegal trafficking in firearms:

In addition, as President Calderón and I discussed, I am urging the Senate in the United States to ratify an inter-American treaty known as CIFTA to curb small arms trafficking that is a source of so many of the weapons used in this drug war.

CIFTA is pretty obscure. The treaty was pushed by the Clinton administration and signed in 1997. But the Clinton administration never submitted it for ratification, due to political concerns over gun control. Harriet Babbitt -- the Clinton era Ambassador to the OAS -- recently testified before the Senate that the CIFTA is essentially modeled on U.S. law, and so imposes no new requirements on this nation. Ratifying it would simply show the U.S. commitment to cooperating with our OAS partners, she argues.

That said, the National Rifle Association make clear its opposition to the treaty after Obama mentioned it yesterday. They also deny Babbitt's assertion that the organization was involved in the negotiations:

The NRA is well aware of the proposed Organization of American States treaty on firearms trafficking, known by its Spanish initials as CIFTA. The NRA monitored the development of this treaty from its earliest days, but contrary to news reports today, the NRA did not "participate" at the meeting where the treaty was approved.

The treaty does include language suggesting that it is not intended to restrict "lawful ownership and use" of firearms . Despite those words, the NRA knows that anti-gun advocates will still try to use this treaty to attack gun ownership in the U.S. Therefore, the NRA will continue to vigorously oppose any international effort to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding American gun owners.

If Obama intends to pursue ratification, it sounds like another tough vote for swing-state Democrats. And with rural voters seemingly more or less convinced that Democrats don't have any crazy plans to take away their guns, are they really willing to give Republicans more ammunition?