Obama: 'Whatever it takes' to end gun violence

February 15, 2008 10:18:43 AM PST
Barack Obama said Friday that the country must do "whatever it takes" to eradicate gun violence following a campus shooting in his home state, but he believes in an individual's right to bear arms.Obama said he spoke to Northern Illinois University's president Friday morning by phone and offered whatever help his Senate office could provide in the investigation and improving campus security. The Democratic presidential candidate spoke about the Illinois shooting to reporters while campaigning in neighboring Wisconsin.

The senator, a former constitutional law instructor, said some scholars argue the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees gun ownerships only to militias, but he believes it grants individual gun rights.

"I think there is an individual right to bear arms, but it's subject to commonsense regulation" like background checks, he said during a news conference.

He said he would support federal legislation based on a California law that would facilitate immediate tracing of bullets used in a crime. He said even though the California law was passed over the strong objection of the National Rifle Association, he thinks it's the type of law that gun owners and crime victims can get behind.

Five people, including the shooter, were killed during Thursday's ambush inside a lecture hall. Authorities said the two guns used were purchased legally less then a week ago.

"Today we offer them our thoughts and prayers, but we also have to offer them our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods and our cities," Obama said. "That is our duty as Americans."

Although Obama supports gun control, while campaigning in gun-friendly Idaho earlier this month, he said he does not intend to take away people's guns.

At his news conference, he voiced support for the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, which is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court next month.

"The notion that somehow local jurisdictions can't initiate gun safety laws to deal with gang bangers and random shootings on the street isn't born out by our Constitution," Obama said.

Obama also:

- Said Clinton now is attacking him for watering down a bill to regulate the nuclear industry that she also voted for and touted on her Web site. He suggested her attack was made out of desperation because his campaign is ahead.

"I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she's feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal," he said. "But I think this kind of gamesmanship is not what the American people are looking for."

- Seemed to hedge on his statement last year that he would accept public funds if his Republican opponent did as well. Likely GOP nominee John McCain has said he would adhere to such an agreement, but Obama was not willing to make such a firm commitment.

"If I am the nominee, then I will make sure that our people talk to John McCain's people to find out if we're willing to abide by the same rules and regulations with respect to the general election going forward," Obama said. "But it would be presumptuous of me to say now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't even know if the other side is going to agree to it and I'm not the nominee yet."

- Blamed problems with the economy on a "failure of leadership in Washington" that includes decisions by the Bush administration on taxes and the Clinton administration on trade. He criticized "politicians (who) tout NAFTA as a success when they're in the White House and then call it a mistake when they're on the campaign trail."

- Said he has not considered whether he would give up his Senate seat if he wins the presidential nomination.

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