Second Amendment finally makes an appearance at a Republican debate
by Chad D. Baus
In the year-long run-up to the Republican presidential primary, GOP candidates got together to debate nearly as often as President Obama played golf. (Well, not really - there were at least 15 debates last year, while Obama golfed about twice that much. But you get my point.)
And yet despite the frequency of the debate schedule (there have already been four more in 2012), and despite a major gun control scandal involving the Obama Justice Department and the BATFE ("Operation Fast and Furious") that brewed throughout the year, Tuesday, January 16, 2012 was the first time that I can recall a moderator raising the subject of the Second Amendment.
From the transcript:
WILLIAMS: Gov Romney, Speaker Gingrich says your record of support for gun owners is weak. You signed the nation’s first ban on assault weapons in Massachusetts and steeply increased fees on gun owners in that state, in fact by 400 percent. How can you convince gun owners that you will be an advocate for them as president?
ROMNEY: Well, Juan, in my state we had a piece of legislation that was crafted both by the pro gun lobby and the anti-gun lobby. Massachusetts has some very restrictive rules and the pro gun lobby said, you know what, this legislation is good for us, it includes provisions that we want that allows us, for instance, to crossroads with weapons when we're hunting that had not been previously allowed.
And so the pro gun folks in our state, the the Gun Owners Action League and others said, look, we would like you to sign this legislation. And the day when we announced our signing, we had both the pro gun owners and anti-gun folks all together on the stage because it worked. We worked together. We found common ground.
My view is that we have the second amendment right to bear arms and in this country my view is also that we should not add new legislation. I know that there are people that think we need new laws, we need to find new ways to restrict gun ownership. And there is in Washington a non-stop effort on the part of some legislators, and I believe the president, to restrict the right of law-abiding American citizens from owning a gun.
I disagree with that. I believe we have in place all the laws we need. We should enforce those laws. I do not believe in new laws restricting gun ownership and gun use.
WILLIAMS: By the way, governor, I remember that you were teased mightily a few years ago to say you hundred varmints. I'm just wondering if you have gone hunting since ’07.
ROMNEY: I'm not going to describe all of my great exploits. But I went moose hunting actually — not moose hunting, I'm sorry, elk hunting with friends in Montana. I've been pheasant hunting. I'm not the great hunter that some on this stage, probably Rick Perry, my guess is you are a serious hunter. I'm not a serious hunter, but I must admit — I guess I enjoy the sport and when I get invited I'm delighted to be able to go hunting.
WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, you voted in support of requiring trigger locks on handguns. You also voted for background checks on firearm purchases made at gun shows. These positions have led your rivals to question your second amendment bona fides. What can you say tonight to reassure gun owners that you will stand with them?
SANTORUM: Both of those things were supported by the National Rifle Association. I worked with them to craft a bill. This was during the Clinton administration, where I voted against the gun ban, voted against the assault weapons ban, voted — voted 100 percent with the NRA. And this was a piece of legislation that was crafted that they endorsed, they supported, and worked with me to make sure that we could — we'd not have something far worse pass.
And so sometimes you have to pass something that can get enough votes to be able to satisfy folks that they won't pass something that's much worse. And so that's what you have to do to make sure that rights aren't taken away.
I've been a strong — again, lifetime A-plus record with the NRA, worked with them. They came to me repeatedly when I was in the Senate to help them and — and — and sponsor legislation and work toward making sure in ensuring gun rights.
Contrast that with Congressman Paul. And one of the most important things that we did in — in — in protecting the Second Amendment — and I provided a leadership role on it — was the gun manufacturers' liability bill. There were a lot of lawyers out there who were trying to sue gun manufacturers and hold them liable for anybody who was harmed as a result of the gun properly functioning.
And we — we went forward and passed, with the NRA's backing, a bill that put a ban on those types of lawsuits. If that ban had not been passed, if that gun manufacturer's liability bill, removing them from liability from that, had that not been passed, there would have been no gun industry in this country and there would have de facto been no Second Amendment right.
Congressman Paul voted against that bill. And — and that's a very big difference between someone who actually works with the gun — Second Amendment groups for — for legislation that can protect that right and someone who says they're for Second Amendment, has attacked me on my Second Amendment issues, which you just referred to, and here’s a man that would have wiped out the Second Amendment by — if his vote would have been — carried the day.
BAIER: Congressman Paul?
PAUL: Hardly would that wipe out the Second Amendment. But the jurisdiction is obviously with the state. Even when tort law is involved with medical malpractice, which is a real problem, now, our governor worked on and our state has done a little bit on medical liability. I think that's the way it should be handled.
You don't have — you don't have national tort law. That's not part of the process. That should be at the state level. So to argue the case that that does away with the Second Amendment, when I'm the one that offers all — all the legislation to repeal the gun bans that have been going on (inaudible) everything else.
I mean, I've introduced legislation like that. So that's a bit — a bit of an overstretch to — to say that I've done away with the Second Amendment.
SANTORUM: No, I need to respond to that, because the fact is, if we did not have a national liability bill, then people would have been able to go to states like, say, Massachusetts or New York and sue gun manufacturers where they would not pass a gun liability bill. So unless you have a national standard to protect guns — manufacturers of guns, you would create the opportunity for the elimination of guns being manufactured in this country and de facto elimination of the right to bear arms.
PAUL: Well, this is the way — this is the way our Constitution disappears. It's nibbled away. You say, well, I can give up on this, and therefore, I'll give that, and so eventually there's nothing left. But, no, tort law should be a state function, not a federal function.
In 2008, there was much discussion about gun rights during the Republican Presidential primaries. Although there were a number of Republican candidates who had a strong pro-Second Amendment record, the party eventually settled on a candidate with an extremely spotty record on the Second Amendment (as well as other issues important to the conservative base).
The end result was that very little excitement could be found among the grassroots gun rights movement, which had been credited just two elections before of having tipped the vote in favor of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush (R) over then-Vice President Albert Gore Jr. (D). (In 2000, gun owners made up 38 percent of the total vote in New Mexico, 33 percent of the total in Florida and 27 percent of the total in Ohio)
Coupled with a media willing to cover for the extreme anti-gun record of the Democrats' candidate, Barack Obama, and a faux pro-gun group which had been set up by Democrats to provide cover (and which has since been dismantled), the stage was set for the election of the most anti-gun President in history.
Three years later, the Republican party is again faced with the prospect of choosing a candidate they believe can beat Obama at the ballot box. Unlike his last campaign, Obama's record of opposition to the Second Amendment rights of Americans can no longer be concealed. Since he was elected, Obama nominated proven gun ban extremists to his cabinet, attempted to stop the Department of Defense from selling once-fired military brass to reloaders, voiced support for a South American treaty as an end run around the Constitution, appointed two anti-gun Supreme Court Justices, blocked the import of highly collectible, historical military surplus firearms and slated them for destruction, and in a secret, closed door meeting with one of the nation's leading gun ban groups promised that he is working on even more gun control efforts "under the radar." All this on top of the fact that Obama's ATF has been exposed for having allowed the sale of as many as 2500 guns to Mexican drug cartels, which have since been used in multiple murders, as part of the now infamous "Fast and Furious" scandal.
If ever there was a time for Republicans to take advantage of a motivated grassroots pro-gun voting block, it is now. But will the party choose wisely, or will they once again neuter the pro-gun vote?
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman.
June 19, 2008: President Romney in 2012?: What Mitt Should Be Doing Now
December 19, 2007: Some candidates earn their NRA endorsement; Mitt Romney just makes his up
April 8, 2007: Will you be Mitt Romney's cheap date?