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Andrew Traver: Is Obama's choice for ATF chief an 'antigun zealot'?

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"This is a demonstration that Obama has ... the same attitudes about Second Amendment rights now as he did [when he was an Illinois state senator], which is quite hostile," says Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Golden, Colo., that promotes free-market ideas. "He's picked a strong anti-Second Amendment person for an administrative job that has far more influence over the practical exercise of Second Amendment rights than any other job in the country."

Obama's election in 2008 touched off a run on guns, because gun rights advocates perceived him to hold antigun views. Americans spent $11 billion more in 2009 than in 2008 to buy guns, ammo, and gear – even in the face of recession.

Among the estimated 80 million gun owners in the US, many apparently didn't believe Obama when, on the 2008 campaign trail, he said : “I believe there is a Second Amendment right. I think it is an individual right. I think people have the right to lawfully bear arms.”

After it became clear that the new administration wouldn't propose, for example, reinstating the lapsed assault-weapons ban, and after US Supreme Court rulings that buttressed Second Amendment rights, the gun-buying frenzy tapered.

(FBI reports show gun violence in the US has declined, surprising those criminologists who saw the combination of the 2009 gun run and high jobless rates as a recipe for a spike in gun crimes and violence.)

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