Friday, May 16, 2008

McCain Addresses The NRA

Senator John McCain drew a sharp distinction between his record of support of second amendment rights and that of Barack Obama -- who received an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association.

McCain addressed the NRA's 137th national convention, held at the Exposition Center in Louisville, where he framed the election as about whether the nation's best days are behind us. "I reject the idea of an America that is in decline."

McCain noted that his commitment to "all Americans and all constitutional rights" -- including the right to bear arms -- is longstanding.

When I first ran for Congress in 1982, I was proud to have the support of gun owners. For more than two decades, I've opposed efforts to ban guns, ban ammunition, ban magazines, and dismiss gun owners as some kind of fringe group unwelcome in "modern" America. The Second Amendment isn't some archaic custom that matters only to rural Americans, who find solace in firearms out of frustration with their economic circumstances. The Second Amendment is unique in the world. It guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. To argue anything else is to reject the clear meaning of our Founding Fathers.

The voting records 0f Obama and Hillary Clinton, in contrast, belie their professed affection for the second amendment:

Senators Obama and Clinton claim they support our hunting heritage, but they voted to allow lawsuits that would force American gunmakers out of business and to ban ammunition commonly used for hunting. Their votes reveal their real views -- far more than their occasional statements of theoretical support for the Second Amendment heard on the campaign trail.

McCain acknowledged that he and the NRA have not always seen eye to eye on every issue relating to the right to bear arms. For example, McCain said that although he does not want to see gun shows regulated out of existence,

I believe an accurate, fair and instant background check at guns shows is a reasonable requirement.

This election, McCain asserted, offers gun owners a clear choice that will have consequences:

Let's be clear. If either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is elected President, the rights of law-abiding gun owners will be at risk, my friends, and have no doubt about it. They have both voted as Senators to ban guns or ban ammunition or to allow gun makers to be sued out of existence.

Addressing the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming opinion in the D.C gun ban case (Heller), McCain criticized Obama, who took the position that the District of Columbia can prevent a law-abiding citizen from having a gun to defend himself even in his own home.

Senator Obama hopes he can get away with having it both ways. He says he believes that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms. But when he had a chance to weigh in on the most important Second Amendment case before the U.S. Supreme Court in decades, District of Columbia v. Heller, Senator Obama dodged the question by claiming, "I don't like taking a stand on pending cases." He refused to sign the amicus brief signed by a bipartisan group of 55 Senators arguing that the Supreme Court should overturn the DC gun ban in the Heller case. When he was running for the State Senate in Illinois, his campaign filled out a questionnaire asking whether he supported legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns with simple, "Yes."

The Heller case underscores the importance of judicial selection, McCain emphasized; he promised to nominate judges who will interpret the law -- or the Constitution -- as written, rather than making it up "by fiat" to suit their personal preference.

In addition to different positions on the second amendment and judicial nominations, McCain drew other distinctions between his record and Obama's.

There are many other differences between my views and Senator Obama's. I favor lower taxes, less government spending, and less federal bureaucracy. Senator Obama has clearly stated his preference for raising the tax burden on Americans, increasing government spending and giving the government more authority over the lives of American families and businesses. We have differences on health care. I prefer to give American families more control over their health care decisions. Senator Obama would prefer the government exercise greater control. Senator Obama would meet unconditionally with some of the world's worst dictators and state sponsors of terrorists. I would not add to the prestige of those who support violent extremists or seek to destroy our allies.

McCain concluded by addressing the issue of the war in Iraq, stating that he would oppose Obama's promises to pull troops home regardless of the advice of generals on the ground:

A reckless and premature withdrawal would be a terrible defeat for our security interests and our values. Iran will view it as a victory, and the biggest state supporter of terrorists, a country with nuclear ambitions and a stated desire to destroy the State of Israel, will see its influence in the Middle East grow significantly.

McCain promised that he would never risk the safety of our country for his political ambition, and concluded his speech with a standing ovation accompanied by a brass band.