Barack Obama has shown a commendable tendency to stick to his principles regardless of the audience. Obama has argued his position on fuel economy in Detroit and has argued for merit pay for teachers before a potentially hostile teacher’s organization. Today, when it might be politically safest before Democrats to support restrictions on gun rights, Obama continues to defend Constitutional liberties while supporting some restrictions.
It would especially be easy for an Illinois politician to back restrictions on guns after the recent shootings, but Obama has never resorted to taking the easy position. AP reports:
Barack Obama said Friday that the country must do “whatever it takes” to eradicate gun violence following a campus shooting in his home state, but he believes in an individual’s right to bear arms.
Obama said he spoke to Northern Illinois University’s president Friday morning by phone and offered whatever help his Senate office could provide in the investigation and improving campus security. The Democratic presidential candidate spoke about the Illinois shooting to reporters while campaigning in neighboring Wisconsin.
The senator, a former constitutional law instructor, said some scholars argue the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees gun ownerships only to militias, but he believes it grants individual gun rights.
“I think there is an individual right to bear arms, but it’s subject to commonsense regulation” like background checks, he said during a news conference.
He said he would support federal legislation based on a California law that would facilitate immediate tracing of bullets used in a crime. He said even though the California law was passed over the strong objection of the National Rifle Association, he thinks it’s the type of law that gun owners and crime victims can get behind.
Five people, including the shooter, were killed during Thursday’s ambush inside a lecture hall. Authorities said the two guns used were purchased legally less then a week ago.
“Today we offer them our thoughts and prayers, but we also have to offer them our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods and our cities,” Obama said. “That is our duty as Americans.”
Although Obama supports gun control, while campaigning in gun-friendly Idaho earlier this month, he said he does not intend to take away people’s guns.
At his news conference, he voiced support for the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, which is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court next month.
“The notion that somehow local jurisdictions can’t initiate gun safety laws to deal with gang bangers and random shootings on the street isn’t born out by our Constitution,” Obama said.
Campaigning in Ohio, Obama’s rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed Obama’s comments.
“Obviously we have to first and foremost do everything we can to take reasonable steps to keep our children safe,” she said. “And while safeguarding and respecting our Second Amendment rights, we have to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, gang members and people with mental health problems.”