UK Sunday Herald
Sunday, July 5, 2009
LAST SUMMER, the National Rifle Association ran adverts claiming that Barack Obama would “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns” if elected. The campaign didn’t do much for John McCain, but in every other respect it has been wildly successful: NRA membership is up 30% and gun control has disappeared from the administration’s list of priorities.
Americans have gone on an extraordinary gun-buying spree. The best available measure of over-the-counter sales is the number of requests for background checks filed with the FBI. From November to February, there were 5.5 million, up almost a third, year on year. Although May’s figures were the weakest since the boom began, gun shops were still selling 15% more weapons than in 2008.
Richard Feldman, a former regional director of the NRA, says the organisation thrives when the right to bear arms is under threat. When there is no such danger, it has to be invented. “You could almost sense the NRA fundraisers licking their chops because for the first time in eight years they had an identifiable bogeyman,” he says. “When people are fearful about losing something that’s the time you can separate them most easily from their money.”
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The fact is, President Obama is nowhere near being “the most anti-gun president in American history”. He wants to close a loophole allowing sales without background checks at gun shows, tighter registration of handguns and a national law against carrying concealed weapons. But on whether the second amendment guarantees the individual right to pack a pistol, he supports the conservative position laid down by the Supreme Court last June, which is that a federal handgun ban would be unconstitutional.
The gun lobby expects him to show his true colours soon. “Gun owners are politically savvy people and they realise that the new administration poses risks to their second amendment rights,” says NRA spokeswoman Vicky Cieplak.
Erich Pratt, the communications director of Gun Owners of America, agrees: “The fear is that once he’s done with the economy, he’ll set his sights on other parts of his agenda.”
This article was posted: Sunday, July 5, 2009 at 6:11 am