A Second Look at the Second Amendment
The Second Amendment hasn't received a great deal of attention in the 2012 presidential election so far. That may change in the general election if the nominee chooses to push the fast and furious scandal. Before it gets to that, a look at the history of each candidate shows that the opinion of several front runners may not be different than President Obama's.
Mitt Romney: Governor Romney has a solid record of pursuing gun control measures to control crime and increase safety. He has been vocally supportive of the assault weapons ban, supported a waiting period, and supports registration. While Governor he continued Massachusetts's history of gun control advocacy.
In 2002, Mitt Romney stated in a debate that he supported the tough gun laws in Massachusetts and that he believed they help protect us and keep us safe. He vowed not to chip away at those laws.
While in office, Governor Romney supported the Brady bill and a waiting period because it was necessary to complete a background check. More recently, he has stated that with the advent of instant background checks, a waiting period is no longer required.
While in office, he stated that his views did not line up with the NRA. After initiating his Presidential campaign in 2007, Governor Romney joined the NRA with a lifetime membership. He asserted in a taped speech that he supported second amendment rights for all legal purposes, including the common defense.
In 2004, the federal ban on assault weapons expired. Before that happened, Governor Romney signed a bill to permanently ban assault weapons in Massachusetts. That same legislation also extended the term of a firearm identification card and a license to carry firearms from four years to six years, granted a 90-day grace period for holders of firearm identification cards and licenses to carry who have applied for renewal, and created a seven-member Firearm License Review Board to review firearm license applications that have been denied. Governor Romney later stated that the legislation was good overall for firearms owners because of these provisions. During the discussion over the ban, Governor Romney stated that assault weapons were not for hunting or self defense, but were instruments of destruction.
Governor Romney has been supportive of the second amendment in the general sense while campaigning for the Presidency in 2012, but continued to support an assault weapons ban in the 2008 elections. Since that time, he has stated that he does not believe that the nation wide assault weapons ban should be re-instituted.
He does not address the issue on his 2012 campaign website.
Ron Paul: Congressman Paul is a strong supporter of the second amendment. He notes that the founding fathers did indeed want Americans to own firearms for hunting, but that they also understood the need for each person to protect themselves and the need for the populace to overthrow a potential tyrannical government.
In 2003, Congressman Paul introduced legislation to remove the 5 day waiting period to own guns and to remove the "instant" background check at gun shows. He notes that this instant check allows the government to create a database of gun owners.
Congressman Paul has warned that the UN and other entities do not like the second amendment and with national politicians avoiding the issue of gun control as a known loser, these foreign entities represent the greatest threat to the second amendment.
Congressman Paul opposed the DC gun ban and supported the Supreme Court's ruling in DC vs Heller to overturn the ban. He noted prior to the ruling that if the court found the restriction reasonable, the second amendment would indeed be in trouble.
Congressman Paul has repeatedly stated that an armed society produces less crime than an unarmed society. He points to DC as having a high crime rate and a large number of restrictions on guns. He has also noted that people need to stop believing that the government will protect them in all cases. He notes that if the pilots on airplanes were known to be armed or the airline policies would have been to fight back against terrorists, then the 9/11 attacks may not have occurred.
While in office, Congressman Paul has voted against every gun law that has come up for a vote. This includes an amendment to close the loophole for background checks at gun shows, an amendment to to allow a lawsuit against the seller if the seller should have known the purchaser intended to use the gun illegally, and an amendment to permit lawsuits for negligence purposes.
Despite being a supporter of the second amendment, Congressman Paul voted against the Protection in Lawful Commerce Act. He explains this vote by noting that establishing such a law in civil liability was outside the bounds of the federal government according to the Constitution. While he supported the intent, he opposed the law.
During his time in office, Congressman Paul has also sponsored or co-sponsored a number of pro gun rights bills. These include co-sponsoring legislation to restore second amendment rights to D.C., sponsoring legislation to repeal the assault weapons ban and repeal the waiting period (2003), and sponsoring legislation to repeal the Brady Bill.
Newt Gingrich: Congressman Gingrich has been vocally supportive of second amendment rights and his campaign statements and literature call for no restraints on second amendment rights. However, Speaker Gingrich's record is mixed with a great deal of support for gun control legislation.
While in Congress, Gingrich voted against the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that was eventually enacted and required background checks for those purchasing firearms.
However, three years later while acting as Speaker of the House, Gingrich brought to the floor and voted in favor of an Omnibus spending bill that contained two pieces of legislation to curtail second amendment rights. The first was the Gun Free School Zone Act which made it illegal to be in possession of a gun while in a school zone. The second was the Domestic Violence Offenders Act. This legislation made it illegal for anyone conviced of domestic violence to own a firearm. When asked about this second piece of legislation on Meet the Press, Speaker Gingrich confirmed his support for the bill and stated that it was reasonable.
While running for the Presidency, Speaker Gingrich has been very vocal in his support for second amendment rights. In a speech to the NRA, Speaker Gingrich stated that the second amendment was not put in the constitution to affirm the people's right to vote, but rather to allow them to defend themselves from the government.
In December of 2011, Speaker Gingrich filled out the Gun Owners of American survey in which he took a pro-second amendment stance on all questions. This included stating he would support the repeal of the Domestic Violence legislation and the Gun Free School Zone Act. These are the two pieces of legislation that he was instrumental in passing in 1996.
Rick Santorum: Senator Santorum has a mixed record on the second amendment. Some of Senator Santorum's record indicates that he supports strong second amendment rights. In 1993, Senator Santorum voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act, the Brady Bill. In 2004, he also voted against an extension of the Assault Weapons ban, and against an amendment to require background checks at gun shows.
On the other hand, much of Senator Santorum's record shows support for gun control to deter crime. In 1997, he voted for an omnibus spending bill that included the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. This legislation would have made it illegal for men convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or who have a restraining order to own a gun. In 2004, Senator Santorum also voted for legislation to require child locks on all weapons.
That same legislation contained the Gun Free School Zone Act. That legislation made it illegal to be in possession of a firearm on school grounds.
in 1996, Senator Santorum co-sponsored legislation to increase mandatory minimum sentences for criminals possessing firearms. Specifically, the legislation would have increased penalties regarding using or carrying a firearm and using or carrying a firearm while in possession of armor piercing ammunition during and in relation to a crime of violence or drug trafficking.
In addition to these items, Senator Santorum has repeatedly supported Project Exile. Project Exile was a federal program started in Richmond, Virginia in 1997. The project was designed to shift the prosecution of illegal technical gun possession offenses from state courts to federal court, where they carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. In 2000 and 2001, Senator Santorum co-sponsored legislation to implement this program. Specifically, that legislation would have amended the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to provide firearms sentencing incentive grants to eligible States that:
- demonstrate that they have implemented firearms sentencing laws requiring that any person who uses or carries a firearm during and in relation to any violent crime or serious drug trafficking crime be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years (without the possibility of parole) in addition to the punishment provided for such crime, or requiring that any person who possesses a firearm, having at least one prior conviction for a violent crime, shall be sentenced to five years' imprisonment (without the possibility of parole);
- or can demonstrate that they have in effect an equivalent Federal prosecution agreement;
- and demonstrate that they have or will implement a public awareness and community support program that seeks to build support for, and warns potential violators of, such firearms sentencing laws;
- and provide assurances that they will coordinate with Federal prosecutors and Federal law enforcement agencies to promote Federal involvement and cooperation in the enforcement of laws within that State and will allocate resources in a manner calculated to reduce crime in the high-crime areas of the State.
Jon Huntsman: Governor Huntsman signed three key pieces of legislation related to the second amendment while in office. The first of those laws was HB 67, HB 67 lowered the legal age for someone to apply for a big game hunting permit from 14 years old to 12 years old.
The other pieces of legislation were SB 38 and HB 357. These laws allowed people to have and store a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle without the need for a concealed carry permit.
In 2011, Governor Huntsman stated that would veto an assault weapons ban if he was elected President and the legislation was sent to him.
Rick Perry: Governor Perry strongly supports the second amendment. He has repeatedly supported legislation to ensure the protection of the second amendment and has stated that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right of every law-abiding citizen of our country. Some of the legislation that Governor Perry has signed into law includes:
- SB 766 - prohibits lawsuits against gun ranges, gun manufacturers, and distributors for anything carried out in lawful operation
- House Bill 225 - extends the renewal period for a concealed handgun license from four to five years without an increase in renewal fee.
- House Bill 322 - reduces all fees for a concealed handgun license for military members and veterans by 50 percent and lowers the age from 21 to 18 for members of the military or veterans to obtain a concealed handgun license.
- House Bill 685 - exempts military members and veterans from taking the range portion of the concealed handgun licensing process if they had been weapons certified in the military within the past five years prior to application for the license.
- House Bill 1483 - expands methods by which applicants for a concealed handgun license may pay the fees to include personal check, cash, and credit card. Currently only cashiers checks and money orders are accepted.
- House Bill 823 - clarifies the current definition of “traveling” as it relates to someone carrying a firearm. Current law is ambiguous and is interpreted differently by courts and law enforcement.
- House Bill 1038 - reduces the fee for renewal of a canceled handgun permit for senior citizen by 50 percent. The current renewal fee for a senior citizen is $70 for a four-year renewal period and this bill will reduce that fee to $35 for those 60 years of age or older.
- SB 378 - Establishes the "Castle Doctrine" in Texas which states that occupants can use deadly force instead of fleeing when their home is attacked
- SB 321 - allows concealed handgun carriers to leave their firearm in a locked glove box while working
While in office, Governor Perry has also signed reciprocity agreements with Georgia and Montana allowing concealed handgun carriers in those states to carry a weapon in Texas. This brought the total number of agreements to 14.
Governor Perry has also supported the Supreme Court Ruling that overturned the DC gun ban, and opposed a 2011 rule change to require that multiple sales of rifles be recorded in Texas.
To see the full writeup on each candidate and the evidence supporting these statements, look at each candidate's profile under the second amendment.