The second, big GOP Presidential candidates debate will be held tomorrow evening, sponsored by NBC and Politico, from the Reagan Presidential Library in California. This will be the first debate with the participation of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the guy who’s announcement more-or-less stole the show at the recent Iowa Caucuses. While November 2012 is a long, long, long way off (eons in Political Time, in fact) conventional wisdom suggests that the winner of the GOP primary will go on to face the incumbent, President Barack Hussein Obama, in the general election. As a public service to the TTAG Armed Intelligentsia, we thought it might be useful to look at the major candidates and the President, from a “what’s their position on guns” point of view. We’ll start with the incumbent, and move on to the challengers, in order of their current poll rankings.
President Barak Hussein Obama
In 2008, then-candidate Obama claimed he had nothing against guns in the hands of private owners. He just wanted to make sure we all had some “common sense” rules that would ensure the safety of the public, while allowing people to keep and bear arms. In 2011, it’s a lot harder for Obama to mask his stance on guns, as we have two years of his administration’s record to review. And that record has featured a fairly consistent, anti-gun message.
It includes adding quite a few outspoken critics of gun rights to his cabinet, appointing two anti-gun rights Supreme Court Justices, blocking the importation of collectible WWI-vintage surplus guns, attempted to stop the military’s sale of spent brass for cartridge remanufacture, and supported efforts by NYC Mayor Bloomberg to craft laws that will skirt the spirit of the Heller and McDonald rulings.
It would be difficult to imagine a candidate for President (outside of, say, Michael Bloomberg or Sarah Brady) that would be as hostile to gun rights organizations and the Second Amendment as President Obama.
Governor Rick Perry (R-TX)
You gotta love a guy who goes jogging with his dog, packin’ heat, who subsequently dispatches a coyote who was in the wrong place/wrong time, attempting to bisect the guv’s faithful dog. Ruger even came out with a commemorative edition of the lil’ .380 he carried to do the deed. Think Perry supports gun rights? You bet your sweet ass he does. He’s from Texas. You’d expect less? He recently signed into law revisions to conceal carry, allowing citizens protection who want to carry and store firearms in their locked vehicles while parked at work, even when the workplace prohibits guns on site. The only black mark on his record is a failure to sign a gun pledge from one of the gun rights organizations. Frankly, he doesn’t need to. He’s proven with his voting record that he’s a major supporter of gun rights.
Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA)
Romney has been accused in the past of flip-flopping on issues. Health care. Abortion. Taxes. But he’s been fairly consistent on the issue of gun rights. He’s against them. He supported the Clinton “Assault Weapons” Gun ban in 1994, and signed a bill into law in Massachusetts that was called “one of the toughest anti-gun laws in the nation. His membership in the NRA dates from weeks before he filed to run for President in 2008, and despite claims he’s “been a hunter all his life,” he’s been hunting exactly twice. Kinda sounds an awful lot like a doppelgänger for John Kerry. Romney has paid lip service to groups like the NRA, but has missed multiple opportunities to justify his claim to support gun rights. Is his love of guns another conversion of convenience? Hard to say, but his positions on other issues seem to change with the prevailing winds.
Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)
Bachmann has a solid record on support for gun rights. As a Congresswoman, she’s supported the efforts to get a nationwide reciprocity law on the books for concealed carry, and the bill that would prevent the District of Columbia from banning guns within the city. She’s been shooting since she turned 12 years old. Bachmann enjoys a solid record on gun rights, and has the support of the NRA in Congress.
Former Pizza Chain CEO brings some interesting credentials to the race. One of few blacks prominent in the Republican Party, he’s proven his chops as a successful businessman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. He’s also served on the board of the Federal Reserve, so the guy knows something about our monetary system (although I kinda worry, frankly, about the whole Fed thing, as I personally think the Federal Reserve needs some serious oversight.) But how is he on gun rights?
Without a political track record, we have to go on what he’s said, and what’s he’s said is…um…weird. Cain apparently looks at gun rights as a states rights issue, in other words, the right to bear arms should be left to the discretion of the individual states. Wrong. Since he’s not said much else about guns, we’ll have to go with that.
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX)
What can you say about Ron Paul? You either love the guy, hate him, or think he’s a loon. Nobody is neutral on Ron Paul, who, if you were going to describe his character for a Hollywood elevator pitch might go something like “Ted Nugent meets Calvin Coolidge, with a soupçon of H. Ross Perot thrown in for spice.” If you’re a Conservative, watching Paul go at it on the stump is rather like the experience of watching Linus give his student council president speech during It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
Everything seems great – he’s got the issues down, makes sense on spending, the deficit, the economy…and then he opens up his foreign policy notes and starts talking about allowing Iran to have nukes to be ‘fair.’ Um…not so much. Or sentiments that would make Pat Buchanan look like Woodrow Wilson. How is he on gun rights? Actually, pretty solid. He sponsored a bill to prevent the U.S. from ratifying a treaty that would allow the U.N. sovereignty over our right to own guns. He’s also tried to protect gun manufacturers from nuisance lawsuits, as well as other pro-gun bills. Just don’t get him started talking about defense.
Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Santorum is a solid Conservative. He also doesn’t have a prayer to win the Presidency, at least this time out. But you can argue that what he’s really doing is an apprenticeship for 2016, or making a run for the Veep gig this time around. During his time in Congress, he’s been a consistent vote for gun rights, opposing gun bans, magazine bans, and lawsuit abuse against gun manufacturers.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)
Newt. Wow. Never haven’t seen a campaign implode this fast since Fred Thompson’s. The guy’s campaign is on life support, due entirely to self-inflicted wounds. The Newtster has been a recipient of the NRA’s Defender of Freedom Award, and once made the statement that “as long as I’m Speaker, no gun control legislation is going to move in committee or on the floor of this House and there will be no further erosion of their rights.”
That sounds good. But Newt (like Ron Paul) is one of those guys who you think you know, and then they open their mouths and out comes something outta left field with a hockey stick. When he heard that Ronald Reagan was running for President, Jack Warner famously said, “No, no…Jimmy Stewart for President…Ronald Reagan for Best Friend.” I think Newt would make a great Secretary of State or Defense Secretary. His personal negatives and wonkishness don’t really say “Presidential Timber” to me.
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT)
Because the GOP persists in the wrong-headed idea that the Republican Party should be the “Big Tent” guys, who cover a broad spectrum of political thought, Jon Huntsman is running as this years RINO/stalking horse for the “Centrist” Republicans. In other words, the guy’s playing the part of The Only Republican The Left-Leaning Mainstream Media Will Grudgingly Admit is Pretty OK In Their Book.” That is, right up until the time he would get the nomination, in which case he would spontaneously transmogrify into Satan Incarnate. (See Presidential Candidate Sen. John McCain, Election of 2008.)
Huntsman’s got virtually NO chance to win the nomination, this time around (Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice…). And in typical RINO fashion, he seems a bit perplixed and pezzled on questions concerning guns. Asked by Hugh Hewit about an assault weapons ban, he replied that he wouldn’t veto it. When asked later to clarify, he claimed he “didn’t understand the question.” Um…not so much. On the other hand, he did sign some pro-gun legislation as governor. Then again, he also served as Obama’s former Ambassador to China.
Then there’s Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost, waiting in the wings:
Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK)
What to say about Sarah? She can hunt, kill, and field dress a moose. How cool is that? You’d have to go to Texas to find anybody who comes as close as Governor Palin does to being the perfect gun rights candidate. Palin doesn’t just pay lip service to her support for gun rights. The lady shoots. She’s been a life-long member of the NRA, and she doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk, and has been a keynote speaker at the NRA annual convention. Will she run? Could she win? I dunno. But as far as gun rights, goes, as a single issue candidate, she’d be hard to beat.