Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fact-Checking FactCheck.Org on Obama and Guns doesn't think much of the NRA's ads criticizing Obama. They are, sadly, way off base. This is, presumably,one of the reasons why Stuart Taylor Jr. of the National Journal declared he "no longer trust the major newspapers or television networks to provide consistently accurate and fair reporting and analysis of all the charges and countercharges." He's got good reason.

For starters, takes Obama at his word that he "believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms." Many gun owners are not so willing to give the benefit of the doubt, as Obama spent most of his adult life in a city with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, and, according to every record of the past 20 years, never uttered a word of objection. If a candidate claimed that he strongly opposed legal gambling, and yet lived in Las Vegas for 20 years, voters would be understandably skeptical.

Obama voted against a bill that declared that "in any Illinois municipality where gun registration is required it shall be an "affirmative defense" if the person accused of violating the registration requirement can show that the weapon was used "in an act of self-defense or defense of another ... when on his or her land or in his or her abode or fixed place of business." FactCheck says, "Letting the owner of an unregistered firearm escape the penalty for failing to register is one thing, but it's another thing entirely to make it a crime to use any firearm - registered or not - in self-defense."

No, that's precisely it - local law had already made it illegal for Hale DeMar to own and use the handgun that he used to protect himself from a burglar. State lawmakers sought to change that; Obama opposed them. If you see that vote as supporting "a right to own a handgun in self-defense", then you can see any position in any vote.

FactCheck is particularly sloppy by taking Kennedy at his word that an amendment offered in 2005 that would ban "armor piercing" bullets, but was not meant to ban hunting ammunition. As Dave Kopel laid out in detail, the amendment changed an existing ban on "armor piercing bullets" measured by the content of the bullet to a penetration standard.
Instead of a penetration standard (which would ban most rifle ammunition), a content standard was adopted. The sale or import of handgun ammunition with a significant amount of steel, titanium, or other metal core was outlawed. The Kennedy amendment refers to rifle ammunition that has more penetrating capability than "standard" ammunition of the same caliber. In other words, a bureaucrat could decide that "standard" ammunition in a certain caliber has a certain weight and velocity, and any round with a greater weight or velocity could be administratively prohibited.

Existing law is designed to ban armor-piercing bullets while ensuring that hunting ammunition was kept legal; Kennedy's amendment, despite his claims of what he meant to do, would have opened the door, and perhaps even required banning most rifle ammunition.

On the third charge, that Obama supports a ban on handguns, FactCheck writes:
The NRA bases its claim on a disputed 1996 questionnaire that Obama's Illinois state Senate campaign filled out for the nonprofit voting group, Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. On it, somebody filled in the word "yes" in response to the question, "Do you support legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?" But the Obama campaign said that the survey was actually filled out by his then-campaign manager who "unintentionally mischaracterized his position," adding that Obama never saw the survey.

As we wrote previously, an amended version of the questionnaire was later submitted to the group, with Obama's handwritten notes on it providing more detail on some of the answers. Obama clearly saw and handled this version personally and did not alter the question about banning the sale and manufacturing of guns. Nevertheless, his aides maintain that the gun-ban answer was a mistake and didn't reflect Obama's true position.

Nonetheless, deems the charge that Obama supports a ban on handguns false. Apparently like the Boston Globe and the Washington Post in their fact-checking features, has decided that their own previous research is no longer reliable.

FactCheck says that the NRA is "misleading" when they state that Obama would "mandate a government-issued license to purchase a firearm." They say that he has only called for licensing handguns, and because he said a national gun registration law isn't politically possible: "I just don't think we can get that done." That's a thin reed to argue that Obama opposes the idea, or wouldn't push for it if it were politically possible (in a Congress that is likely to be significantly more Democratic next year). Finally, concludes:
At a campaign stop in Duryea, Pa., in early September, Obama again attempted to reassure gun owners that he doesn't intend to take away their guns, and couldn't even if he wanted to:

Obama (Sept. 5): The bottom line is this. If you've got a rifle, you've got a shotgun, you've got a gun in your house, I'm not taking it away. Alright? So they can keep on talking about it but this is just not true. And by the way, here's another thing you've got to understand. Even if I wanted to take it away, I couldn't get it done. I don't have the votes in Congress.

The fact that FactCheck thinks this reinforces the argument that Obama respects the Second Amendment speak volumes. Pro-Second Amendment lawmakers just don't talk this way.

By the way, since 1980, the ratio of NRA endorsed-Republican presidential candidates to winning Republican presidential candidates has been 1:1 - Reagan twice, Bush in 1988 but not 1992, Bush twice. So far, they have not officially endorsed a candidate, even though. I know the NRA is generally positive on McCain, but had some major beefs with him in the past (campaign finance reform and restrictions on sales at gun shows). Will the addition of lifetime NRA member Sarah Palin be enough to get the organization to make an official endorsement?

UPDATE: Bob Owens is similarly unimpressed with FactCheck. And the Washington Post looks at the NRA ad and, to the surprise of no one, makes all of the same errors as FactCheck - i.e., because Obama hasn't said since 1999 that he supports increasing taxes on guns and ammunition by 500 percent, he must not support it now. One of the really surprising developments in this election has been how the "fact-checking" features of major news organizations have been sloppy and vague with large omissions... just about always to the benefit of of Obama.


Why Obama is evasive about his anti-gun attitudes

Our Monday item on the so-called Bradley effect prompted an email from reader Bill Saracino, who fills in some of the details lost in the standard liberal narrative of the 1982 California governor's campaign:
In 1982, I was executive director of Gun Owners of California, which at the time was one of the five largest non-party-controlled political action committees in California.

The gun-phobics qualified an initiative for the '82 fall ballot that would have essentially banned all handguns. It became Proposition 15. Gun Owners of California, in partnership with the National Rifle Association, assembled a broad coalition of gun, hunting and outdoor sport groups to oppose Proposition 15. I was chosen to be the chairman of the official No on 15 committee. After being far ahead in surveys in the spring and early summer, Proposition 15 failed in November by about 65% to 35%. George Deukmejian opposed Proposition 15; Tom Bradley supported it. With that background, I make the following points:

* Proposition 15 was enormously unpopular with Reagan Democrats and rural voters of all stripes.

* We tried to include Bradley vs. Deukmejian comparisons in as much of our anti-15 advertising as possible, and we outspent Yes on 15 by about 5 to 1 in the fall campaign (largely on the NRA's money).

* Because of Proposition 15, turnout in our rural areas was unprecedented, reaching 85% to 90% in some Central Valley and Sierra foothill counties.

* Deukmejian ran ahead of even Reagan (and usually even or just slightly behind "No on 15") in some rural, usually Democratic counties. The one county I remember off the top of my head is Modoc, a small county in the northeast corner of the state, bordering Nevada and Oregon. "No on 15" got 88%, Deukmejian in the low 70s. This trend was repeated--basically without exception--in large and small rural counties throughout the state.

* At a think-tank sponsored event a month or so after the election, Bradley's manager stated he thought that the presence of Proposition 15 on the ballot had cost his guy the election.

* The absentee-ballot factor is totally overlooked by folks trying to ascribe a racial component to Bradley's defeat and the surveys missing the final outcome. The final pre-election surveys weren't all that far off the mark. They showed a small to middling Bradley lead--which in fact materialized at the polls on election day. Bradley won the vote cast at the ballot boxes, but because of an aggressive absentee-ballot effort by the Deukmejian campaign (and our separate effort for No on 15), an unprecedented percentage of total turnout was represented by absentees. Deukmajian won a large majority of the absentee ballots

The pollsters totally missed this factor leading up to election day, as did the exit polls. In a still-memorable tableau Mervin Field, director of the almost-always-liberal-slanted Field poll, was on television at midnight insisting that Bradley was going to win as the tote boards showed a 50,000 vote Deukmejian lead with 99% of the vote counted.

That's a long way of saying what I wanted to, which is not that there wasn't anybody in California in 1982 who lied to pollsters about voting for Bradley and then voted against him because he was black. I suspect there were. But my firsthand experience tells me that the "No on 15"-driven turnout among pro-gun conservative Democrats, combined with the very wily absentee ballot campaigns conducted by Deukmejian and No on 15, had much more to do with Bradley losing than did any hidden racial factor.

To confirm this, we went in search of contemporaneous press accounts. We found a February 1983 column by Tom Wicker, a liberal New York Times columnist. Wicker's column--based on an analysis by Mervin Field, the pollster Saracino cites in his email to us--acknowledges the role of absentee ballots (California had just passed a law allowing anyone to vote absentee) and of Proposition 15:
Another major factor was the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 15, a strong handgun-control initiative. A $6 million opposition campaign reversed a majority originally favoring the initiative, to a 63-to-37-percent defeat. Mr. Field measured a 32-point turnaround in the last month alone. Since Mr. Bradley favored Proposition 15, the late tide against it obviously hurt him, too; 60 percent of ''no'' voters said in exit polls that they voted for Mr. Deukmejian.

But it wasn't just that $6 million campaign that defeated Proposition 15 and maybe Tom Bradley too. Mervin Field's exit polls showed that 48 percent of all voters said they kept a gun in their households; factoring in the absentees, that means that more than half of California's voters had a gun in their households on Election Day.

It should be noted that none of this implicates the Bradley effect, which posits a discrepancy between what people tell pollsters and how they actually vote. Field's analysis deals entirely with what people did tell pollsters.

More here

1 comment:

shasnowsha said...

I have read and heard that Obama is willing to let us have our gun rights, but that he doesn't want people owning handguns. Is this true?


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