December 8, 2008
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH
As gun sales shoot up around the country, President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that gun-owning Americans do not need to rush out and stock up before he is sworn in next month. "I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the second amendment," Obama said at a news conference. "Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear. I said that throughout the campaign. I haven't indicated anything different during the transition. I think people can take me at my word."
But National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said it's not Obama's words β but his legislative track record β that has gun-buyers flocking to the stores.
"Prior to his campaign for president, his record as a state legislator and as a U.S. Senator shows he voted for the most stringent forms of gun control, the most Draconian legislation, gun bans, ammunition bans and even an increase in federal excise taxes up to 500 percent for every gun and firearm sold," Arulanandam said.
Obama answered "yes" in 1996 to a questionnaire from an Illinois group on whether he supported a handgun ban. But he later said a staffer filled out that answer and he did not support a ban.
Nationally, background checks for gun purchases jumped nearly 49 percent during the week Obama was elected, compared with the same time period last year, according to the FBI's National Instant Background Check System.
Anecdotally, gun dealers around the country have reported spikes in sales. The Illinois State Rifle Association Reports gun sales for November were 38 percent higher than last year.
"We don't dispute [the gun sales hike] because the numbers from the federal system certainly confirm that there is increased activity out there. We just think it's a bit stupid," said Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Campaign against Gun Violence.
"Anyone who thinks they need to rush out and buy a firearm clearly has not been paying attention to how quickly we make progress on this issue. We don't think these are first-time buyers. We think they are people who already have more than enough guns at their homes to protect themselves and are buying more."