Can Obama Slay the NRA Beast?
Continued from previous page
In 2007, the gun lobby stopped new rules on storing explosives by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), saying gun store owners would be hard-pressed to meet them and that they would interfere with transporting and storing small arms ammunition. In July 2007, the NRA told members that OSHA halted its rule-making process due to their “strong opposition.”
That year, Congress appropriated funds for the Justice Department to grant to states to improve the background check system—which relies on states to send court records of various categories of banned people—felons, mentally ill, drug addicts, etc.— for the scrutiny envisioned in 1993’s Brady Bill. As AlterNet reported, only a dozen states now submit background check data to the DOJ—a low number in part due to a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made state compliance with the law voluntary.
And late in 2008—one month before Barack Obama took office—the federal Fish and Wildlife Service issued new rules allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons on federal parkland and forests in states with laws allowing concealed weapons. That rule covers most of the country. Before 1980, only five states allowed concealed weapons outside the home for personal protection. By 2008, more than 40 states passed laws allowing concealed weapons for self-defense. (Forty-three state constitutions grant individuals rights to use guns outside of the state militia reference in the federal Constitution’s Second Amendment.)
The NRA has seen states loosen gun controls or expand gun rights in recent decades. Most notable are so-called ‘Stand your ground’ laws, which exonerate citizens who use deadly force when confronted by an assailant. Florida was first to pass this law in 2005, followed by two-dozen other states since then. Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida in February 2012 became national news after his killer cited the law in his defense.
Florida has also led the nation with legislation—now tied up in federal Court—that tells doctors to not ask about patient gun use. Seven other states have similar laws.
The Obama Administration And Gun Control
The NRA’s political victory streak continued in Obama’s first term. Most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2008 threw out the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, with its rightwing majority issuing a ruling in Heller that held the Second Amendment included the right of individuals to keep a handgun at home for self-protection.
That ruling, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, is arguably the Court’s most significant revision of constitutional doctrine in decades. While it is one of the gun lobby’s biggest legal victories, it held that Americans only have a right to a handgun at home for self-defense—leaving all other guns and uses in public open to federal regulation.
Meanwhile, the Republican-led House has continues to push for rolling back gun controls. In December 2010, it included language in a larger bill that lifted a ban on transporting guns in checked bags on Amtrak trains.
In 2011, the National Defense Authorization Act included language preventing military commanders and officers from talking to service members about their private weapons, even if a that soldier was seen as being at risk for suicide—which are now occurring at record levels. In December 2012, two retired Army generals—including an ex-Chief of Staff—wrote a Washington Post column urging Congress to stop the ban.
In June 2012, the ATF lifted 90-day residency requirement for immigrants living in U.S. who want to obtain firearms. And last July, the Senate did not vote on an international arms trade treaty, pleasing the NRA’s 4 million members. Three months earlier, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the NRA’s annual meeting, “The Second Amendment is an amendment for all mankind.”