NRA Ads Are Off Target About Obama and Guns

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Now I learn that Barack Obama supports a huge new tax on my guns and ammo."

-- Karl Rusch, National Rifle Association "Hunter" video, Sept. 22

The National Rifle Association has opened fire on Barack Obama for allegedly supporting a "huge new tax" on gun owners. The charge is contained in a series of new television ads attacking the Democratic presidential candidate for his "anti-gun" stance. While it is clear that Obama is no friend of the NRA, the tax charge rests on very flimsy evidence. There are other problems with the ads as well.


The NRA video shows a Virginia hunter and Iraq war veteran, Karl Rusch, complaining about the high cost of gasoline and accusing Obama of planning a "huge new tax" on "guns and ammo."

"Where is this guy from?" Rusch asks. "He's probably never been hunting a day in his life."

The video cites a decade-old clip from a Chicago newspaper to support its claim that Obama favors a huge new gun tax. The December 13, 1999, article in the Chicago Defender said that Obama, then an Illinois state senator, supported a "500 percent" increase in the federal tax on the sale of "weapons he says are most commonly used in firearm deaths."

It is unclear from the article exactly what weapons would have been covered by the proposed tax. Most of the article deals with proposals by Obama to "increase the penalties on gun runners who are flooding Chicago's streets with illegal weapons." Even if Obama did support a big tax increase on the sale of certain types of assault weapons back in 1999, that is hardly evidence that he will move as president to tax the "guns and ammo" most commonly used by hunters such as Rusch.

The NRA video also accuses Obama of voting "to ban virtually all deer-hunting ammunition" and supporting "a ban on shotguns and rifles most of us use for hunting." The deer-hunting claim is based on Obama's support for an unsuccessful Senate amendment by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would have expanded the definition of "armor-piercing" ammunition. The other claim refers to semiautomatic rifles and pistols covered by the assault weapons ban, which expired in March 2004.

Contrary to Rusch's claim, the Kennedy proposal of July 2005, SA 1615, was not aimed at "virtually all deer-hunting ammunition." Instead, it would have authorized the attorney general to define types of illegal ammunition capable of penetrating body armor commonly used by law enforcement officials. During the Senate debate, Kennedy said that his amendment would "not apply to ammunition that is now routinely used in hunting rifles," a point contested by the NRA.

Rusch did not respond to a telephone message requesting comment.


While it is true that Obama favors tighter gun laws, it is a huge stretch to argue that he wants to take away the guns and ammunition most commonly used by hunters. The claim that he favors "a huge new tax on guns and ammo" rests on a confusingly worded nine-year-old newspaper article that has little relevance for Obama's platform as a presidential candidate. The NRA misfires on this one.


Significant factual errors.

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