Gun owners seem to be sweating bullets these days since Barack Obama was elected president.
With Obama’s record on gun control — which includes endorsing an Illinois handgun ban, co-sponsoring a bill to limit purchases to one gun per month and supporting a ban on semi-automatic weapons — gun owners in big cities and small towns throughout the country are concerned that their Second Amendment rights may come under attack in an Obama administration and are buying up guns and ammunition in record numbers.
An authority on law and Revolutionary America at Washington University in St. Louis who consulted on the recent Second Amendment case argued before the Supreme Court says that the right of the people to keep and bear arms most likely will not be an issue that Obama will address as president early in his term — if at all.
“My sense is that Obama does not want to interfere with an issue that will, for the time being, be left up to the states,” says David T. Konig, Ph.D., professor of history and director of the Legal Studies Program, both in Arts & Sciences, and professor of law. “The issue will turn to controls, such as sales at gun shows or other limited restrictions on purchases,” says Konig, who has written extensively on the Founding Fathers and the right to bear arms.
In 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms. Konig was a signatory of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court for the District of Columbia.
Konig, who is writing an article on the Second Amendment for the June UCLA Law Review, doesn’t see gun control being a major political issue in Obama’s first term as it was for President Bill Clinton, who lobbied for, and signed, two major pieces of federal gun control legislation in the 1990s.
“We assume that there will soon be new justices on the Supreme Court, and that might affect a new case. But altogether, I’m confident that Obama will govern from the middle — or center-left — where there’s little desire to open the issue again.”
Konig says that this landmark case, however, left open the question of whether the Second Amendment is “incorporated” so that it applies to states as well.
“It’s the first time the Court has struck down a local gun control law,” says Konig, “and next will be the issue of whether it can do so to a state law under the ‘incorporation’ doctrine, which applies protections from the Bill of Rights to the states under the 14th Amendment’s limits on state power.
“The issue of incorporation will certainly come up, and is now making its way through the courts.”