CNN's Toobin: President Obama is 'Against Gun Control'

CNN's Jeffrey Toobin falsely claimed on Tuesday's Parker-Spitzer that Barack Obama is "against gun control." Toobin also seemed to lament that the conservative position on the Second Amendment has become the "conventional wisdom" in politics: "This is how much gun control has fallen off the map politically- that the idea that more guns will mean more protection is widely believed" [audio available here].

The senior legal analyst for the liberal network appeared during a segment at the bottom of the 8 pm Eastern hour to "break down some of the legal issues" related to the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Host Kathleen Parker first asked Toobin about the interview of gun rights advocate Alan Korwin in the previous segment: "You just heard us interview this pro-gun fellow out in Arizona. Are we all going to be safer if we're all packing heat?"

The liberal talking head launched into his take on gun politics:

[Video embedded below the page break]

TOOBIN: You know, the thing that was so interesting about that interview is that that's the conventional political wisdom now. This is how much gun control has fallen off the map politically- that the idea that more guns will mean more protection is widely believed. His view, which may sound odd to those of us who are sitting in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where there are very distinct views about guns, is very widely shared outside of our world.

This is a much milder version of what he said during a July 15, 2009 segment on CNN where he noted that "when I was in law school...the idea that you had a Second Amendment right to a gun was considered preposterous....But the Supreme Court [in Heller]...said that...individuals have a personal right to bear arms."

Later in the segment, co-host Eliot Spitzer unsurprisingly raised the issue of Arizona's gun laws, which many in the mainstream media have been harping about since the shootings: "Seven states- I believe it is- including Arizona, have passed laws that say if a gun is made in our state, then the federal laws don't even apply. First, is that constitutional in your view? Will it be effective? What do you make of all that?"

It was in the course of the discussion over these state laws that Toobin made his outlandish claim about Barack Obama's record:

SPITZER: ...[S]even states, having passed this law- saying, we don't even want the gun limitations imposed by a rather weak federal statute- tells you how sort of rabid folks are- probably on either side- but certainly, those who do not want any limitations on access to a gun.

TOOBIN: Look at Barack Obama. Barack Obama was a senator from Illinois where Chicago- big defender of gun laws- but he had to run for Senate in downstate Illinois, too-

SPITZER: Yeah-

TOOBIN: And he's against gun control. So, I mean, it's- the politics are very different from what they used to be.

Actually, both sides of the Second Amendment issue acknowledge the Democrat's support of gun control. Obama's own Organizing For America website notes how he will "continue to be in favor of handgun law registration requirements and licensing requirements for training" and how he "supported a package of legislation that would limit handgun sales to one a month." The National Rifle Association's talking points page against Obama cites other parts of Obama's pro-gun control record from his time in Illinois.

Earlier in the segment, Spitzer mouthed the liberal talking point about high-capacity gun magazines: "There is the issue of the size of the magazine. Thirty-two bullets- 33 bullets, I think, is not what you need for sport." Besides demonstrating a key misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, it should be noted that the perpetrator of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre used 10 and 15-round magazines in his rampage (15-round magazines were also previously banned with the 1994 Assault Weapons Act). The Commonwealth of Virginia's Review Panel on the massacre noted this detail in their report and concluded that the ban, if it were still in effect, "would have not made much difference in the incident. Even pistols with rapid loaders could have been about as deadly in this situation."

The full transcript of Jeffrey Toobin's appearance on Tuesday's Parker-Spitzer:

SPITZER: CNN's senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin is here to help us break down some of the legal issues raised by the Tucson shooting. Welcome, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Hey.

KATHLEEN PARKER: All right, Jeff, you just heard us interview this pro-gun fellow [Alan Korwin of gunlaws.com] out in Arizona. Are we all going to be safer if we're all packing heat?

TOOBIN: But, you know, the thing that was so interesting about that interview is that that's the conventional political wisdom now. This is how much gun control has fallen off the map politically- that the idea that more guns will mean more protection is widely believed. His view, which may sound odd to those of us who are sitting in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where there are very distinct views about guns, is very widely shared outside of our world.

SPITZER: You know, interestingly, Jeff, I think the divide on gun control issues is very much an urban/non-urban issue-

TOOBIN: I completely agree-

PARKER: Most issues are-

SPITZER: I think folks who live within urban settings are more willing to control guns and- whereas, if you're not living in an urban setting, you say- wait a minute. I want to use a gun for shooting, for sport, whatever it may be. And so, this is a very real political/ideological difference.

Let me ask you about the NICS system (National Instant Criminal Background Check System), the system of federal controls that he talked about. Does it work? You were a prosecutor for many years. Does the system weed out those who shouldn't buy guns?

TOOBIN: Not many- I mean, it's a very complicated system that relies on states and localities to put their information into the system, to put in every time someone has been convicted of a crime, or judged mentally incompetent, or had a domestic violence restraining order against them. Most community- not most- many communities don't do that. The kid who shot up Virginia Tech, who killed 32 people- he had been judged mentally incompetent. Virginia didn't put that into the system-

SPITZER: Right.

TOOBIN: He was allowed to buy the guns. The system has a lot of holes in it.

SPITZER: Well, look at the system here with Jared Loughner. I mean, he had not been deemed incompetent by a court, but clearly, everybody around him said this guy has instabilities, and yet, he walked in, bought the Glock. The system failed.

TOOBIN: The system may have failed, but the law was not violated-

SPITZER: Correct-

TOOBIN: Because there was no judgment against him that should have been in the system. Now, maybe the system should be different, but the system worked, as designed, with law enforcement.

SPITZER: Unfortunate-

PARKER: Well, Jeff, we talked to the sheriff [Clarence Dupnik] last night, and Eliot asked him directly, would it have- do we have to reform gun laws to prevent this sort of thing from happening? He says- no, that won't do any good- you know, people who are criminal, or people who are mentally unstable, can- are still going to be able to get a gun, no matter what the law says.

SPITZER: But the issue that-

TOOBIN: Is that true, though? I mean- you know, I just- law enforcement doesn't usually assume that their actions are futile. I mean, law enforcement is based on the idea that you can actually accomplish something. So it doesn't seem to me that it's just throwing up your hands and saying it's impossible, is a reasonable way to approach it.

SPITZER: Plus, there is the issue of the size of the magazine. Thirty-two bullets- 33 bullets, I think, is not what you need for sport, and therefore, who has access to that is a fundamentally different issue.

I want to switch gears for a second. Seven states- I believe it is- including Arizona, have passed laws that say if a gun is made in our state, then the federal laws don't even apply. First, is that constitutional in your view? Will it be effective? What do you make of all that?

TOOBIN: I think that is not constitutional. The two parts of the Constitution relevant there are the Second Amendment, which does protect the right to keep and bear arms- but there's also the Interstate Commerce Clause, which says that Congress can regulate interstate commerce, and guns, even if they are only made in-state, affect interstate commerce. They shoot people. They create law enforcement activity that crosses state lines. I don't think there are any votes on the Supreme Court that would uphold a law that says- somehow, if you made a gun in Arizona, it's outside of all federal regulation.

SPITZER: But as a political statement, in terms of what we were talking about before, where the public is on issues of gun control- seven states, having passed this law- saying, we don't even want the gun limitations imposed by a rather weak federal statute- tells you how sort of rabid folks are- probably on either side- but certainly, those who do not want any limitations on access to a gun.


TOOBIN: Look at Barack Obama. Barack Obama was a senator from Illinois where Chicago- big defender of gun laws- but he had to run for Senate in downstate Illinois, too-

SPITZER: Yeah-

TOOBIN: And he's against gun control. So, I mean, it's- the politics are very different from what they used to be.

SPITZER: Fascinating.

PARKER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, it's always great to have you with us- wish you could stay longer. (laughs)

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center