Many people have said or written that while Donald Trump supports the Second Amendment, talk is cheap, and we do not have actions to back up the talk. There is some truth in that. Trump doesn’t have a legislative record to show actions to back up his words. But words have meaning. If a nominee is unwilling to give us words in support of the Second Amendment, why should we believe that he will go to bat for us in the executive branch, the legislature, or in the courts?
If the nominee is too concerned with being politically correct when running for office, even in the primary, why should we believe that they will be willing to take more heat while in office, facing re-election, or under media pressure?
If a nominee will not specifically defend the Second Amendment verbally and in writing before being elected, why would we expect them to do so afterwards?
Here is the record of Republican nominees over the last hundred years to see how they compared with Donald Trump.
The Second Amendment was not an issue before 1968. In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt had pushed through the first serious federal gun control law. It impacted few people at first. It only had an effect on machine guns, short barreled shotguns and rifles, and silencers that crossed state lines in interstate commerce. Most people paid little attention to the onerous regulations and taxes that were imposed. There were few prosecutions.
Even as late as 1964 Barry Goldwater, when he spoke of the Second Amendment, spoke of it in the context of hunting. From scribd.com:
At a young age, Barry Goldwater was taught by his mother how to shoot rifles and shotguns.
He believed that gun control was “impossible,” and served as an NRA spokesman, appearing incommercials for the group. He was also an avid gun collector, devoting an entire room of his houseto a variety of guns that he had both made and purchased over the years.
Goldwater was, however, opposed to the sale of automatic firearms:”I’m completely opposed to selling automatic rifles. I don’t see any reason why they ever madesemi-automatics. I’ve been a member of the NRA, I collect, make and shoot guns. I’ve never usedan automatic or semiautomatic for hunting. There’s no need to. They have no place in anybody’sarsenal. If any S.O.B. can’t hit a deer with one shot, then he ought to quit shooting.”
Richard Nixon personally hated guns. He likely approved of GCA 1968. From ontheissues.org:
Twenty years ago, I asked Richard Nixon what he thought of gun control. His on-the-record reply: “Guns are an abomination.” Free from fear of gun owners’ retaliation at the polls, he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles.
Gerald Ford was considerably better: From ontheissues.org:
FORD: The record of gun control, whether it’s in one city or another or in some States does not show that the registration of a gun, handgun, or the registration of the gun owner has in any way whatsoever decreased the crime rate or the use of that gun in the committing of a crime. The record just doesn’t prove that such legislation or action by a local city council is effective. What we have to do–and this is the crux of the matter–is to make it very difficult for a person who uses a gun in the commission of a crime to stay out of jail. I don’t believe in the registration of handguns or the registration of the handgun owner. That has not proven to be effective. And, therefore, the better way is to go after the criminal, the individual who commits a crime in the possession of a gun and uses that gun for a part of his criminal activity.
But, Gerald Ford proposed a ban on a whole class of guns:
I had always opposed federal registration of guns or the licensing of gun owners, and as President, I hadn’t changed my views. At the same time, I recognized that handguns had played a key role in the increase of violent crime. Not all handguns-just those that hadn’t been designed for sporting purposes. I asked Congress to ban the manufacture and sale of these “Saturday night specials.”
Ronald Reagan was not a firm supporter of the Second Amendment in his words. From ontheissues.org:
[In a 1991 speech, Reagan said]: “I’m a member of the NRA. And my position on the right to bear arms is well known. But I support the Brady bill and I urge the Congress to enact it without delay. It’s just plain common sense that there be a waiting period [7 days] to allow local law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to buy a handgun.”
The Brady bill was opposed by the current President, George H.W. Bush. “I don’t think it would be proper for me or any other ex-president to stand and tell an acting president what he should or shouldn’t do,” Reagan said. But then he added: “I happen to believe in the Brady Bill because we have the same thing in California right now.”
He was asked why he had opposed all gun-control measures while he was President. He shook his head. “I was against a lot of the ridiculous things that were proposed with regard to gun control.
George Bush Sr. was at best a lukewarm supporter of the Second Amendment.
Bush exacted his revenge in May 1995, when he read about an NRA fund-raising letter that described federal agents as “jack-booted thugs”. Ripping up his NRA membership card, Bush wrote a letter of resignation, which his office made public. He accused the NRA of slandering dedicated officials “who are out there day and night laying their lives on the line for all of us.”
Robert Dole was lukewarm on the Second Amendment.
George Dubya Bush was lukewarm at best. He promised to sign the extension of the “assault weapon” ban if it reached his desk:
BUSH: I did think we ought to extend the assault weapons ban and was told the bill was never going to move. I believe law-abiding citizens ought to be able to own a gun. I believe in background checks. The best way to protect our citizens from guns is to prosecute those who commit crimes with guns.
John McCain was somewhat pro-Second Amendment in his 2008 campaign. From ontheissues.com:
- McCain opposes restrictions on so-called “assault rifles” and voted consistently against such bans.
- McCain opposes bans on the importation of certain types of ammunition magazines and has voted against such limitations.
- McCain believes that banning ammunition is just another way to undermine Second Amendment rights. He voted against an amendment that would have banned many of the most commonly used hunting cartridges on the spurious grounds that they were “armor-piercing.”
I was surprised to see that Senator McCain had some positive positions on Second Amendment issues. His actions were far less supportive.
Mitch Romney was lukewarm on the Second Amendment at best. From ontheissues.org:
ROMNEY: Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We of course don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country, to have automatic weapons. What I believe is we have to do is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask, how are we going to do that? Good schools, to give people the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that. But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids.
Let us compare these remarks to Donald Trump’s on the Second Amendment. From ammoland.com:
“The Trump family will stay vigilant in our support of right to keep and bear arms. And given today’s threats across the United States it is as important now as ever. National Security begins in our homes. All citizens must have the ability to protect themselves, their families, and their property. The Second Amendment is a right, not a privilege. Our safety and defense is embodied in the Second Amendment and I will always protect this most important right.
Not only does Donald Trump support the Second Amendment with stronger and clearer language, he goes into specifics of what he is going to do to help restore the Second Amendment. He often talks about how the Second Amendment is needed for self defense, a topic no other Republican Nominee would touch. From cnn.com:
TRUMP: — I promise there wouldn’t have been 130 people killed and hundreds of people lying in the hospital to this day. It might not have happened. Because if they knew there were guns in the room, it might not have happened. But if it did, you would have had bullets going in the opposite direction. And believe me, the carnage would not have been the same by any stretch of the imagination.
Trump supports the carry of concealed weapons all over the country with national reciprocity: From the Washington Times:
Mr. Trump made the arguments in a “position paper” on the Second Amendment in which he makes the case that people who don’t break the law should be able to obtain a concealed carry permit allowing them to carry in every state, and that members of the military should be able to carry their arms on military bases and at recruitment centers.
Donald Trump support doing away with federal gun free zones: from cnn.com:
And this whack-job walks in and starts shooting and killed all five of them. Gun-free zones. We are getting rid of gun-free zones. OK? I can tell you.
Donald Trump says no to Universal Background Checks. From ammoland.com:
“I do not support expanding background checks. The current background checks do not work.”
“They make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to acquire firearms while consistently failing to stop criminals from getting guns. We should re-examine our policy to make sure that these prohibitions do not impede law abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
Donald Trump compares his position to Hillary Clinton’s. From cnn.com:
But Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment. We are not talking about change it. She wants to abolish the Second Amendment. We’re not going to let that happen. I can tell you. That we’re going to preserve it. We’re going to cherish it. We’re going to take care of it. OK? They keep chipping away. They talk about the magazines, they talk about the bullets. We’re going to take care of it.
This is another major difference from previous Republican nominees. None of them talked about the incremental attacks on the Second Amendment.
Donald Trump has supported the Second Amendment more forcefully and more specifically than any Republican nominee to date. He has not been in office, so we cannot measure his support with his actions. If he puts into practice even 20% of his proposals to restore Second Amendment rights, he will have done more for the Second Amendment than the last four Republican presidents altogether.
His proposals are strongly supported in Congress. The Congress voted down Universal Background Checks. They voted for national reciprocity. They showed support for an end to many gun free zones, such as in the Post Office and on Army Corps of Engineers managed lands. As Commander in Chief, Trump would not need Congress to end gun free zones in the military.
Donald Trump could enact many of his proposals. And why wouldn’t he? He would have been elected because of them.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.