Presidential Politics and the Gun Issue
By Tim Inwood
I have been involved in Republican party politics for many years and I am also on the Republican Central Committee in Clinton County, Ohio. So I am going to offer some advice I hope my fellow Republicans will listen to. First I must say I am distressed to see the polls are indicating my fellow Republicans are making a huge mistake, one they have made often in recent elections. What they are doing? According to the polling data they are setting up the party for a major defeat. How? By alienating a major player in the coalition that gives the GOP victories--a vital ally who will sit home next November, if Rudy or Mitt are at the top of the ticket. Their sitting at home will surely deprive the GOP of victory. In my view, with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney as the supposed front-runners, the GOP is heading towards sure defeat.
For the Republicans to win they must keep a diverse coalition of groups happy. Victory can only be achieved if social conservatives who support the pro-life position are on board. Also needed are fiscal conservatives, the pro-low tax, pro-growth crowd, who are for protecting private property rights. You need those who support a robust military, strong homeland defense, as well as secure borders. Without any one of these groups the GOP is in trouble. But the vital group I speak of is those Americans who choose to keep a firearm in their home and vote based on those who will defend their right to exercise that Second
The gun owners of this country helped give the Republican Party control of Congress in the November elections of 1994. Bill Clinton and the Democrats forced through a very unpopular gun ban that fall. Bill Clinton himself credited the NRA and American gun owners with giving the Republicans control of the United States House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. Sadly, within a couple election cycles the Republicans forgot who brought them to the dance. The GOP-led Congress failed to repeal any of the hated anti-gun measures passed after 1968. In fact, the only thing most gun owners saw happen in that time was that the hated Clinton gun ban was permitted to expire in 2004. However, President Bush had said if the Congress renewed it, he would sign it. This angered many in the pro-gun community, as they were becoming very disillusioned with the Republicans. I for one do not blame them. For too many years gun owners have been taken for granted by the Republicans. The GOP would say to the NRA “Where will you go? Not to the Democrats, they hate you”. In November ’06 they found out differently. Some Democrats did not hate guns, but actively courted the votes of gun owners. The pro-gun crowd in Ohio supported Governor Ted Strickland and State Attorney General Marc Dann, and took those offices and gave them to Democrats, after more than a decade in Republican hands.
On the national level the GOP literally shot itself in the foot with RINO Republicans supporting a number of gun control measures. One Presidential candidate who can’t seem to gather much support in this election is Senator John McCain. Why is McCain, a decorated war hero, with excellent name recognition having problems? Well, he supported legislation to kill gun shows, which as you can imagine in the pro-gun community is as popular as fleas in a dog kennel. He supported letting illegal aliens get amnesty this year and he also is the co-author of McCain-Feingold, an obscene law that violates our free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. That law has effectively silenced interest groups like the NRA, GOA, Second Amendment Foundation and others at election time. McCain will not be forgiven for his acts against gun owners and many RINO Republicans who supported his gun control efforts have paid the price by losing their seats. Ohio’s Mike DeWine, a McCain sycophant, would still have held his Senate seat had he not betrayed the gun owners of Ohio. I had dinner with DeWine on the Friday before the November election in 2006 and told him he would lose his Senate seat because of his votes on the gun issue. His opponent, Sherrod Brown, was bad on the gun issue, but the gun folks refused to vote for DeWine who had told them he was “Pro Second Amendment” and then voted against gun rights too many times. He was retired to his farm in Cedarville and deserved it. Hopefully his political career is as dead as Julius
There are several reasons Giuliani and Romney are unacceptable to gun owners. As Mayor of New York City, Rudy made clear he supported gun control. He supported the Clinton semiautomatic gun ban of 1994. He supported NY City’s lawsuits against gun makers. In short, he may say he will appoint strict constructionist judges who might support the Second Amendment, but clearly if the Democrats still hold Congress and pass new gun bans, he will most likely sign them. That is something we in the pro-gun cannot risk. Romney made a huge mistake in the first debate. He said he supported the Second Amendment but he also supported banning assault weapons. That vapid comment told me he clearly had no idea of the real meaning of the Second Amendment or what the founders of the United States intended. At the Gun Rights Policy Conference in October, a copy of a press release Romney gave the media was circulated. It was the document released when he banned assault weapons while he was Governor of Massachusetts. I cringed as I read it. Now I feel ill as I watch a bevy of religious leaders are rushing forward to declare their support for him. These endorsements make no sense considering the fact Thompson or Huckabee are a much closer match to their views. They have been duped by the media into thinking it will be Rudy or Mitt and are trying to tip the scale. Sadly, they are only assuring a Democrat
victory with these actions.
The Republican candidates acceptable to gun owners include Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson and Ron Paul.
First, let’s look at Ron Paul. He is excellent on the gun issue and is the only Presidential candidate to make it to the Gun Rights Policy Conference; though I must say in all fairness that the other GOP candidates sent regrets as did one Democrat, Governor Bill Richardson. Representative Paul gave a very rousing speech at the GRPC. The problem is Ron Paul will be unacceptable to other groups in that vital coalition for Republican victory. He is a vocal opponent against the War Against Terrorism. He is also a Libertarian at heart and thus his views on abortion will be intolerable to the religious right. He prefers the States deal with this, instead of the Federal Government. Without the religious right, the GOP falls short and loses elections.
Luckily for the GOP, the Democrats are fielding only one pro-gun candidate and that is Bill Richardson, who has about as much chance of winning as a snow storm in South Florida happening in July. Just as the Republicans must keep a diverse group together in their base, so do the Democrats. The Democrat base is made up of social and fiscal liberals, anti-gun and anti war activists. But it also must make the pro-abortion crowd happy. Let’s not forget the labor and teachers unions, they too must be appeased. Frankly, I will not analyze the field of Democrat Presidential contenders beyond saying the one who will win their primary will be a threat to our Second Amendment rights if they win the Presidential election.
In my analysis, there are only two candidates who will please all the various interest groups that make up the GOP base. Those two men are former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. I urge my fellow Republicans to reconsider their support for anyone other than these two men. If any other candidate in the GOP field wins the primary, we will break up the vital coalition of groups necessary to win the election in November of 2008. I don’t want to see the gun owners, or any of those other necessary members of the conservative coalition, sit at home and not vote. Let’s not make that mistake! Pick someone who will rally the base and lead us to victory in ’08 and preserve all of our rights and interests.
Tim Inwood is the current Legislative Liaison and Past President of the Clinton County Farmers and Sportsmen Association, an Endowment Member of the NRA, Life Member of OGCA, and a volunteer for Buckeye Firearms Association.