Voters should know Republican candidates views on gun rights

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Last year, I wrote a column that offered a blanket defense of gun rights and was blessed with an overwhelmingly positive response. Several K-State students and staff members sent me supportive messages and offered words of encouragement. It’s clear that many in the K-State community care deeply about our constitutional right to defend our safety and liberty.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to write a column that asks how the four candidates in the ongoing Republican primary stack up on this important issue.

Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner in the race, is hardly known as a hardline defender of the Second Amendment. For much of the primary, many Republicans withheld their support for the former Massachusetts governor in part because of his compromising stance on gun rights. During a 2002 gubernatorial debate, Romney notoriously assured voters that “We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them. I won’t chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety,” according to nationalgunrights.org.

According to the same website, Romney has supported the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, mandatory firearms ID cards, a five-day waiting period on gun purchases, the federal Feinstein gun ban and a ban on semi-automatic weapons. The organization Gun Owners of America has given Romney a D-, a lower grade than any other Republican candidate, according to the organization’s official website.

On gun rights, Republicans who vote for Mitt Romney shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking that they’re making some moderate, pragmatic concession — they should recognize that they’re endorsing an anti-Second Amendment record comparable to Barack Obama’s.

Newt Gingrich, conversely, has built up a reputation among many Republicans as a defender of gun rights. In 1993, Gingrich voted against the Brady Act that Romney supported, according to thepoliticalguide.com. Upon becoming Speaker of the House, Gingrich declared, to widespread Republican acclaim, that “As long as I am Speaker of this House, 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.”

Upon closer inspection, however, Gingrich’s record is somewhat mixed. In a 1996 Associated Press article, Gingrich defended his support for the Lautenberg gun ban as “a very reasonable position.” Gingrich says he voted for the bill to stop “people who engage in violence against their spouses from having guns,” but Gun Owners of America says the bill could also allow gun owners to permanently lose their gun rights as a result of non-violent shouting matches between spouses. The bill lowered the threshold for losing one’s Second Amendment rights to a mere misdemeanor, says the group. The AP article seems to confirm this, quoting a Dole campaign spokeswoman as saying the bill would further prevent those convicted of “harassing” their spouses from having guns.

Thepoliticalguide.com also notes that Gingrich was instrumental in passing the Gun Free School Zone Act. During the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Seung-Hui Cho may not have been able to spend nine uncontested minutes slaughtering 30 people if he had encountered armed student opposition. According to the same website, Gingrich now says he would support the repeal of both the domestic violence legislation and the school zone act.

To his credit, Santorum has a relatively strong record on gun rights. According to On The Issues, Santorum voted against gun show background checks and fought to allow unlicensed gun dealers to participate in gun shows. A Jan. 8 Boston Globe article by Shira Schoenberg says Santorum fought against the assault weapons ban and wrote legislation to loosen restrictions on hunting and fishing licenses. The same article, however, notes that Santorum supported the Lautenberg law. Unlike Gingrich, Santorum has yet to say that he would support repealing the law.

Without a doubt, the candidate with the strongest record of defending the Second Amendment is Congressman Ron Paul. Paul is the only candidate to receive an A+ from the Gun Owners of America. The group says Paul has opposed all gun control legislation that has crossed his path since 1968, and even introduced legislation to repeal the Gun Free School Zone act. In a 2008 essay, Paul pointed out that “the worst shootings happen in gun free zones, like schools” and has urged Americans to be “ever vigilant against any attempts to disarm the people.”

A Dec. 27, 2011, CNN article by Carol Cratty reported that a record number of firearms were purchased over the holidays. A rising number of Americans are justifiably concerned that an increasingly intrusive government will impede their ability to defend themselves and their families. From Romney’s record of promoting regulation and bureaucracy to Paul’s staunch defense of our right to bear arms, don’t forget to consider this vital question when deciding who to support this primary election.

Ian Huyett is a junior in political science and anthropology. Please send all comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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