Transcript: Obama and Clinton Debate

So we will strike the right balance to protect the constitutional right but to give people the feeling and the reality that they will be protected from guns in the wrong hands.

GIBSON: Senator Obama, the District of Columbia has a law -- it's had a law since 1976; it's now before the United States Supreme Court -- that prohibits ownership of handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a machine gun or a short-barrelled rifle.

Is that a law consistent with an individual's right to bear arms?

OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence.

As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.

And I think that it is going to be important for us to reconcile what are two realities in this country.

There's the reality of gun ownership and the tradition of gun ownership that's passed on from generation to generation. You know, when you listen to people who have hunted, and they talk about the fact that they went hunting with their fathers or their mothers, then that is something that is deeply important to them and, culturally, they care about deeply.

But you also have the reality of what's happening here in Philadelphia and what's happening in Chicago.


GIBSON: But do you still favor the registration of guns? Do you still favor the licensing of guns?

And in 1996, your campaign issued a questionnaire, and your writing was on the questionnaire that said you favored a ban on handguns.

OBAMA: No, my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire, Charlie. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.

What I think we can provide is common-sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns that are ending up on the streets. We can make sure that criminals don't have guns in their hands. We can make certain that those who are mentally deranged are not getting a hold of handguns.

We can trace guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers that may be selling to straw purchasers and dumping them on the streets.

The point is, is that what we have to do is get beyond the politics of this issue and figure out what, in fact, is working.

Look, in my hometown of Chicago, on the south side of Chicago, we've had 34 gun deaths last year of Chicago public school children.

And I think that most law-abiding gun owners all across America would recognize that it is perfectly appropriate for local communities and states and the federal government to try to figure out, how do we stop that kind of killing?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, you have a home in D.C. Do you support the D.C. ban?

CLINTON: You know, George, I want to give local communities the opportunity to have some authority over determining how to keep their citizens safe.

This case you're referring to before the Supreme Court is apparently dividing the Bush administration. You know, the Bush administration basically said, "We don't have enough facts to know whether or not it is appropriate."

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