From President Obama's White House website
Address Gun Violence in Cities:
Obama and Biden would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.From an interview with Backpacker Magazine, November 2008
Q: Currently, with few exceptions, visitors are banned from carrying loaded guns in national parks. Where do you stand?
A: I believe in Second Amendment rights and the rights of hunters and sportsmen to bear arms and use them in a responsible way. But I am concerned about allowing loaded firearms into family-oriented spaces. We need to closely examine the rationale for any proposal before making efforts to overturn the ruleFrom an interview with Field and Stream Magazine, September 17, 2008
Q: Senator, earlier this year you made a comment about rural citizens clinging to guns that got a lot of criticism, and many sportsmen took that to mean that you don't respect or understand the traditions of American hunters and shooters. How would you respond to that?
A: Well, you know, look, when you're on a campaign trail, you're not always going to choose the perfect word. But what I was specifically referring to--and this is something that I've said before--is that when you've got a federal government that is doing nothing in terms of thinking about people's economic situation, then they don't end up voting on the basis of the economic issues. What they do expect is at the very least they can preserve those traditions that have been so important to them, like hunting, like their faith. That ends up being the focus of their attention. If I had said "relied on"--or that it's important to them--instead of "cling," there wouldn't have been a problem. You know, if you've been on the campaign trail and you're on your sixth event of the night, then you end up maybe choosing the wrong word. But if you talk to sportsmen in my home state of Illinois, they will tell you that I've always been a forceful advocate on behalf of the rights of sportsmen, on behalf of access for sportsmen and hunters. I've been somebody who, well before the recent Supreme Court case, stated my belief that the Second Amendment was an individual right.
Q: Do you agree with the Supreme Court's decision?
A: What I think it has done is provided some clarity that, in fact, the Second Amendment is an individual right and that law-abiding gun owners can't be prevented from going out and hunting, protecting their family on their own. That doesn't mean that, as Justice Scalia and the Supreme Court noted, it doesn't mean that we can't have some common-sense gun control legislation out there-for example, background checks, making sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of criminals or people who have mental illnesses. The important point is that I am very mindful of the fact that sportsmen in America may have gone hunting with their fathers, their grandfathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, and that this is part of a tradition and a way of life that has to be preserved. And there's nothing that I will do as president of the United States that will in any way encroach on the ability of sportsmen to continue that tradition.
Q: You mentioned common-sense gun legislation. Would you consider the assault weapons ban and registration of guns to fall into that category of common-sense gun control?
A: I think those are two separate issues. I think that when it comes to the assault weapons ban, the answer is yes. I think AK-47s generally are not used for hunting. AK-47s or vest-piercing bullets are generally used to hurt people. And I think that it's legitimate for us to say military-style weapons that aren't traditionally used for purposes other than killing people, we've got to be careful about. But I'll be honest with you. I'm more interested in enforcing the laws that we do have-for example, tracing guns that are used in crimes back to people who have been using them. I don't anticipate that there's going to be a whole slew of efforts at the federal level when it comes to gun control. But I think that strong background checks; making sure that we're dealing with the gun-show loophole, which I think has been a problem; allowing us to trace guns that are used in crimes back to where they were purchased--those are the kinds of initiatives that I think pose no threat whatsoever to law-abiding gun owners.From an interview with WPHT-AM 1210 Radio, speaking to host Michael Smerconish, October 9, 2008
I do believe in some gun safety measures -- so, for example, with all the shootings in Philadelphia, most recently police officers, I want to make sure that we can trace back guns and bullets that are used in crimes back where they were purchased, so we can make sure that in fact the laws are being enforced.From a townhall campaign event in Duryea, PA, September 5, 2008
I believe in the Second Amendment, and if you are a law-abiding gun owner, you have nothing to fear from an Obama administration.
Now, the NRA sometimes... their general attitude is look, we don’t want anything, and if you even breathe the word ‘gun control’ or ‘gun safety,’ then you must want to take away everybody’s guns. Well, that’s just not true.
This can’t be the reason not to vote for me. Because your guns... we’re not going to mess with them... spread the word with your friends.Acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination to be President of the United States, Denver, CO, August 28, 2008
The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.From a News conference in Chicago, IL, June 25, 2008
What I have said is, is that I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but I do not think that that precludes local governments being able to provide some commonsense gun laws that keep guns out of the hands of gang-bangers or children, that local jurisdictions are going to have different sets of problems, and that this is a very fact-intensive decision that has to be made. But I do think that the Second Amendment is an individual right. So, what I would like to do is wait and see how the Supreme Court comes down, and evaluate the actual reasoning in the case to see how broad or narrow the decision's going to be.From an Interview with the Flathead Beacon, Montana, May 28 2008
Q: Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer has said he is skeptical a Democrat can beat John McCain here because of a real or perceived weakness on gun rights. Do you think Gov. Schweitzer is correct and how do you reconcile any need for gun law reforms in urban areas with the anxiety many Westerners may feel that their Second Amendment rights may be trampled?
A: Well I think you just identified exactly the argument that has to be made. And that is that we have two realities when it comes to guns in this country. You’ve got illegal guns landing on the streets in the hands of gang-bangers in places like Chicago where children have been shot on the streets in astonishing numbers, and then you’ve got law abiding gun owners who are hunting, and sportsmen, and keeping a gun in the house to protect their family, and who have a tradition of lawful gun ownership dating back generations. It’s part of a way of life. The key is to reconcile those two realities.
The voters of Montana need to understand that I believe in the Second Amendment, I believe it is an individual right and I will not encroach on their right to get firearms and to do everything that they’re doing right now. What I do want to see is better enforcement when it comes to handguns that are pouring into the streets of urban centers and that means better background checks, it means being able to trace guns that are used in crimes back to gun dealers that may be violating our laws. It means closing the gun show loophole. Those are, I think, some common sense regulations that in no way will impede on the ability of lawful gun owners in Montana or anywhere else in the country from exercising their Second Amendmentrights.From the Los Angeles Times on May 16, 2008
"I do believe that there is nothing inconsistent with also saying that we can institute some common sense gun laws, so that we don't have kids shot on the streets of cities like Chicago," Obama said.
He cited background checks and "unscrupulous gun dealers who have peddled them to people who shouldn't be getting them. Those are laws that I think the majority of Americans believe in."
Obama said he disagreed with the NRA. "Their basic position is that any law related to gun ownership is a potential camel's nose under the tent and that if we allow even the smallest concession that somehow guns will be taken away from everybody.”
”If you subscribe to that view then you are not going to agree with me. On the other hand, if you are a gun owner here in South Dakota who uses your gun to hunt or to protect your family and does so in a lawful way, then you have nothing to worry about from me.”From an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on April 25, 2008
Q: Have you been following the news of all the gun deaths?
A: The news has just been heart-breaking. I've asked my staff to contact the Chicago Police Department. and I'm going to put in a call to the mayor just to find out just what is accounting for this huge uptick.
Q: Is there anything the federal, state, or local government can do?
A: There's a bunch of things we can do. I've already said as president I want to restore [federal] COPS funding, which will put police on the streets. Additional police improves public safety. New York has seen a huge drop in crime over the last decade, more than even other cities, and part of it is they've got more cops than anybody else per capita. We've got to help local communities put more police on the streets. We want to make sure we provide state and local government with the targeting information they need, the technology they need to make sure police are going to the places most at risk for gun violence. We've got to tighten up our gun laws. I've said before we should have a much tougher background check system, one that's much more effective and make sure there aren't loopholes out there like the gun show loophole. [Or] The Tiahart Amendment [requiring destruction of gun-purchase records.] Here's an example of something common-sense: The ATF [federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] should be able to share info with local communities about where guns are coming from, tracing guns that are used in criminal activity. It's been blocked consistently in Congress. As president, I'm gong to make sure we know if guns are being sold by unscrupulous gun dealers not abiding by existing laws. We should know about that.
Finally, we've got to deal with the underlying social issues that are causing this gun violence as well. You've got gangs of young men who are lost, who are involved in the drug trade. Starting early with early childhood education, improving our K-through-12 education, having after-school programs or summer-school programs so we are providing pathways for young people to move in the right direction.
As president, we've got to be able to help local communities put those programs in place.
Q: In Gary [Ind.,] and in Beaumont, Texas, you talked about parents doing a better job parenting. Is that applicable here?
A.: Absolutely. That's what I refer to when I say we've got to get to the underlying problems here. Children have to be taught right and wrong and violence isn't a way to resolve problems. Kids have to be kept off the streets at night. Transmitting those values is important. A lot of these kids unfortunately they might not have parents at home who are helping to give them guidance. Their communities themselves are wracked with violence. They're seeing it every day going down the streets. The role of the community, the churches, other institutions, instilling a different sensibility in our young people -- that's got to be part of the solution as well.
Q: The Washington, D.C. [handgun ban] case before the U.S. Supreme Court you were asked about at the debate -- have you have a chance to look into that more?
A: My view continues to be that the constitution, I believe, does provide a right to bear arms; but that local communities, and state governments, as well as the federal government, have a right to common-sense regulations and firearm ownership [rules.] The truth is, obviously, the ban here in Chicago, the ban in D.C. is not keeping the guns out of our cities, and so I'm interested in just figuring out what works and I'm confident we can come up with laws that work and that pass constitutional muster and don't infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners whether it's in Downstate Illinois or rural Montana.
Q: As a state legislator, you voted against a bill which would let people with orders of protection [against others] carry guns and another that would have barred municipalities from punishing people who kept guns in their homes. Why?
A: I felt that [the first one] was a precedent for conceal-and-carry laws. There has not been any evidence that allowing people to carry a concealed weapon is going to make anybody safer. [The second one] is relevant to the D.C. handgun issue. I wanted to preserve the right of local communities to enforce local ordinances and this would have overturned municipalities being able to enforce their own ordinances. We can argue about whether the ordinances work or not. But I wanted to make sure that local communities were recognized as having a right to regulate firearms.
Q: But you don't want to take a stand on the D.C. gun-ban law?
A: I don't like taking a stand on pending cases.From a Campaign statement, April 16, 2008
One year after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, families are still mourning, and our nation is still healing. As Americans gather today in vigils and 'lie-ins' – or pray silently alone – our thoughts are with those whose lives were forever changed by the shootings. But one year later, it’s also time to reflect on how violence – whether on campuses like Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University or on the streets of Chicago and cities across this nation – can be prevented. Clearly, our state and federal governments have to strengthen some laws and do a better job enforcing others. But we all have a responsibility to do what we can in our own lives and communities to end this kind of senseless violence. That is still our task one year later, and it will be our ongoing task in the years to come.From the Philadelphia Democratic primary debate, ABC, April 16, 2008
Q: Senator Obama, the District of Columbia has a law, it's had a law since 1976, it's now before the United States Supreme Court, that prohibits ownership of handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a machine gun or a short-barreled rifle. Is that law consistent with an individual's right to bear arms?
A: Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence.
As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.
And I think that it is going to be important for us to reconcile what are two realities in this country.
There's the reality of gun ownership and the tradition of gun ownership that's passed on from generation to generation. You know, when you listen to people who have hunted, and they talk about the fact that they went hunting with their fathers or their mothers, then that is something that is deeply important to them and, culturally, they care about deeply.
But you also have the reality of what's happening here in Philadelphia and what's happening in Chicago.
Q: 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.
A: No, my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire, Charlie. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.
What I think we can provide is common-sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns that are ending up on the streets. We can make sure that criminals don't have guns in their hands. We can make certain that those who are mentally deranged are not getting a hold of handguns. We can trace guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers that may be selling to straw purchasers and dumping them on the streets.
The point is, is that what we have to do is get beyond the politics of this issue and figure out what, in fact, is working.
Look, in my hometown of Chicago, on the south side of Chicago, we've had 34 gun deaths last year of Chicago public school children.
And I think that most law-abiding gun owners all across America would recognize that it is perfectly appropriate for local communities and states and the federal government to try to figure out, how do we stop that kind of killing?From the Associated Press annual meeting on April 14, 2008
Is there a way for us on the one hand to acknowledge the importance of gun ownership in huge swaths of the country, and recognize... that at the same time recognize that for us to put in place strong, tough background checks, to close the gun show loophole, to be able to trace guns that have been used in crimes to the gun dealers who sold those guns to see if they're abiding by the law, making sure that they're not working with straw purchasers to dump illegal handguns into vulnerable communities - that those two visions are compatible - that they're not contradictory.From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on April 1, 2008
I do think we have to do a better job sharing information [on guns] between local and federal officials. I am not in favor of concealed weapons. I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could [get shot during] altercations.From a Pennsylvania Campaign Event on April 1, 2008
I believe in the Second Amendment…I believe in the lawful use of firearms for hunters and sportsmen and people wanting to protect their families.From an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 13, 2008
Q: How do you differ from Sen. Clinton on the issue of gun control? A: I think our positions are fairly similar. I'd let her characterize her own position. I certainly believe in the Second Amendment right, that people have the right to bear arms. But I also believe it is important to have some common-sense gun laws in place to make sure that straw purchasers aren't being used to fill up our streets with illegal firearms, and that we have stronger background checks so we keep firearms out of the hands of people with mental health problems or young people or those who have committed crimes. I think it is important for us to strengthen our ability to trace guns that have been used in crimes to gun dealers to make sure they are not operating in an illegal way. I think it's possible to reconcile the tradition of gun ownership, and the rights of sportsmen, hunters and those who want to protect their families, with keeping handguns that are used in crime off the streets. You can protect the rights of gun owners and at the same time keep guns out of the hands of criminals.From a News conference in Milwaukee, WI, February 15, 2008
In response to the NIU shooting:
We offer them [the victims and their families] our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods and our cities.... [by doing a] more effective job of enforcing our gun laws, strengthening our background check system, being able to trace guns that are used in violent crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers -- so that we can crack down on them -- closing gun show loopholes.
There was a discussion today about a law that has just passed in California that allows micro-tracing of bullets that have been discharged in a crime so that they can immediately be traced. This is something that California has passed over the strong objections of the NRA… That's the kind of common sense gun law that gun owners as well as victims of gun violence can get behind.
On the Second Amendment:
There is an individual right to bear arms, but it's subject to commonsense regulation.
On local gun laws:
I think that local jurisdictions have the capacity to institute their own gun laws…The City of Chicago has gun laws, as does Washington, D.C.... I think 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.From a Campaign Appearance at Boise State, February 2, 2008
“And then there are people who say, 'Well, he doesn't believe in the Second Amendment,' even though I come from a state – we've got a lot of hunters in downstate Illinois. And I have no intention of taking away folks' guns.”From the 2008 Nevada Democratic primary debate, MSNBC, January 16, 2008
Q: Senator Obama, when you were in the state senate, you talked about licensing and registering gun owners. Would you do that as president?
A: I don’t think that we can get that done. But what I do think we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement. One good example — this is consistently blocked — the efforts by law enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers.
That’s not something that the NRA has allowed to get through Congress. And, as president, I intend to make it happen.
But here’s the broader context that I think is important for us to remember. We essentially have two realities, when it comes to guns, in this country. You’ve got the tradition of lawful gun ownership, that all of us saw, as we travel around rural parts of the country.
And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot.
And then you’ve got the reality of 34 Chicago public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago.
We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets.From Ebony Magazine, December 31, 2007
As president, my first act on this issue will be the restoration of full funding for COPS (the Community Oriented Policing Services program). I also support reasonable, common sense measures to limit the occurrence of gun violence that has taken the lives of too many Americans, and that has particularly ravaged Black communities.
These measures include closing the gun-show loophole and requiring mandatory background checks on purchasers at gun shows .… I also believe that we have to make guns in this country childproof .... I support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent. I believe that these weapons, such as AK-47s, belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets. These are also not weapons that are used by hunters, sportsmen, and sportswomen.From a Campaign statement (not a quote from the Senator), November 20, 2007
Senator Obama believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.From the 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007
Q: How would you address gun violence that continues to be the #1 cause of death among African-American men?
A: You know, when the massacre happened at Virginia Tech, I think all of us were grief stricken and shocked by the carnage. But in this year alone, in Chicago, we've had 34 Chicago public school students gunned down and killed. And for the most part, there has been silence. We know what to do. We've got to enforce the gun laws that are on the books. We've got to make sure that unscrupulous gun dealers aren't loading up vans and dumping guns in our communities, because we know they're not made in our communities. There aren't any gun manufacturers here, right here in the middle of Detroit. But what we also have to do is to make sure that we change our politics so that we care just as much about those 30-some children in Chicago who've been shot as we do the children in Virginia Tech. That's a mindset that we have to have in the White House and we don't have it right now.From a rally in Milwaukee, WI on April 16, 2007. www.realclearpolitics.com
There is gonna be discussion about how did this person get the firearms that he used. And there are already reports that potentially the semi-automatic weapons he used would have been banned under an assault weapons ban that was allowed to lapse. There'll be discussion about security on college campuses. There will be speculation as to what caused this young man to snap. But I hope that it causes us to reflect a little bit more broadly on the degree to which we do accept violence, in various forms, all the time in our society. We glorify it, we encourage it, we ignore it, and it is heartbreaking and it has to stop.From The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.215 (2006)
I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturer’s lobby. But I also believe that when a gangbanger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels someone disrespected him, we have a problem of morality. Not only do we need to punish that man for his crime, but we need to acknowledge that there's a hole in his heart, one that government programs alone may not be able to repair.From a U.S. Senate debate with Alan Keyes, sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Illinois, October 21, 2004
OBAMA: Well, let's be clear. Mr. Keyes, for example, does not believe in common gun safety laws like the assault weapons bill. I have, as one of my guests today, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police. I'm proud of the support that I've received from that organization, in part, because they are concerned precisely about what Mr. Keyes referred to--getting shot by assault weapons, when they go in, in an attempt to do a drug bust.
Now, Mr. Keyes suggested that, somehow, because criminals break the law, that we shouldn't have laws in the first place. That defies logic. People break all sorts of laws, but we still have the laws in place.
And the fact of the matter is, is that Mr. Keyes does not believe in any limits, that I can tell, with respect to the possession of guns, including assault weapons that have only one purpose, and that is to kill people, unless you're seeing a lot of deer out there wearing bullet-proof vests, then there is no purpose for many of the guns.
I think it is a scandal that this president did not force a renewal of this assault weapons ban. If it had problems with it, then we should have closed those loopholes that might have made it not as effective as it should have been.
KEYES: I think one of the great problems is that the Assault Weapons Ban deals with a fictional distinction. You have guns that are exactly the same guns as are banned, in function, that were banned because of the way they look. And you know, that's the whole truth of this policy: it's to make politicians look as if they are doing something, when in point of fact, they are doing nothing.
The answer to crime is not gun control, it is law enforcement and self-control. And when we remember that, we will see the rates of crime go down in Chicago, and everywhere else.
MODERATOR: Mr. Obama, thirty seconds.
OBAMA: Well, I think it's true that we have to focus on self-control, and when young gang-bangers are out there shooting into crowds, there's a moral issue and a values issue that has to be addressed.
But I tell you what, it helps if they don't have an assault weapon with them when they shoot into that crowd. And I think that common sense gun safety laws aren't just supported by gun control politicians. They're supported by mothers who've been, seen their loved ones gunned down on the streets, and I think it's necessary that we address the problems that they see every day.From The Chicago Tribune, April 27, 2004
I am consistently on record and will continue to be on record as opposing concealed carry.
[Close More Quotes info]
In response to a question about gun violence, Obama voices support for the second amendment as tradition and individual right, talks about passing common sense gun laws, providing opportunities for urban kids, and emphasizing parental responsibility.
(Question Starts at 2:00, Video not available on YouTube)