I wish that I had been able to go to CNN’s town hall with President Obama. But Thursday night’s event was invitation-only.
Still, Anderson Cooper, the moderator, challenged the president a few times. But the president just made one false claim after another.
When rape survivor Kimberly Corban asked why she shouldn’t be able to carry a gun to protect herself, Obama said his current executive actions won’t make it harder for her to purchase a firearm. He claimed, he isn’t proposing anything that “prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.”
Obama’s proposed expanded background checks will make guns more expensive, perhaps prohibitively so for poorer people. In DC, where Obama was speaking from, expanded background checks add about $125 to the cost of transferring a gun.
After the event, CNN brought in conservative commentators such as SE Cupp. However, they failed to understand the issues here. It’s not just that the laws won’t do any good — they will also come with some real costs. These laws won’t stop mass public shootings, but they will hurt law-abiding citizens.
Then came the issue of expanded background checks leading to a national gun registry. Anderson Cooper said that people are afraid of having their guns taken away and asked, “Is it fair to call it a conspiracy?” “Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,” Obama said, seemingly intimidating Cooper into dropping the subject.
It would be nice to take President Obama’s at his word, but Americans have seen this scenario play out before. California, New York, and Chicago have all used registration lists to identify who owns guns that are no longer legal.
Since 2004, the FBI has been required to destroy NICS records of gun sales and transfers within 24 hours of receipt. However, federally licensed dealers are required to maintain records of background checks that have been done on customers. Congress currently forbids federal collection of this information into a central database, but there’s no guarantee that this won’t change. With records on all private transfers and sales, the government could potentially figure out who legally owns a gun. Five years down the line, a future President Hillary Clinton could push to require that federally licensed dealers make copies of their records and turn them into the federal government. This would be the start of a national registration list.
The president forcefully claimed: “I respect the Second Amendment; I respect the right to bear arms; I respect people who want a gun for self-protection.”
Well, here’s another quote: “I don’t believe people should be able to own guns.” That’s what Obama told me when we were colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School in 1996. Obama has also publicly supported a nationwide “ban [on] the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns” as well as a “ban the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons.” Even as late as the 2008 Presidential primaries, Obama supported Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban.
From inaccurate claims about Congress restricting firearms research to failure to explain that virtually everyone stopped by background checks are law-abiding citizens who have a name similar to the people we want to stop, a lot more corrections could be made.
In addition, while Obama insists that he “respects” people who disagrees with him, he keeps suggesting that those who disagree with him, the “gun lobby,” only do so out of bad motivations – only because those positions are “by the way, really profitable for the gun manufacturers.” Never that they might want to let vulnerable victims defend themselves and their loved one.
If Obama really had confidence in his case, he wouldn’t have to make up so many false claims.
John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010).