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Where Do Republican Presidential Candidates Stand on the Second Amendment?

Where Do Republican Presidential Candidates Stand on the Second Amendment?

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A field of Republican contenders, dominated at this writing by poll result showing former President Donald Trump with a wide lead, are vying to be the GOP nominee in the 2024 election. Obviously, a key constituency whoever emerges will need to appeal to for support is gun owners. To that end, Firearms News has prepared a questionnaire designed to evoke unequivocal answers from the candidates on specifics that go far beyond the “I support the Second Amendment” form response boilerplate that all too often leaves plenty of room for weasel wording and not much at all real pledges they can be held accountable to later. We’re asking them stuff like “Do you believe that citizens should have the right to personally own military-grade weapons for defense against a possible future tyrannical government and for event of foreign invasion?” and “How would you reconcile that with the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1986 Hughes Amendment? Are you in favor of repealing these direct infringements on the Second Amendment?”

The questionnaires are being sent to Donald Trump and to other prominent contenders including those who qualified for a place in Republican debates based on meeting fundraising, polling, and party “pledge” requirements. They are Trump (who leads in all other categories but does not qualify because he would not sign the pledge to support whoever the nominee ends up being), and candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.  As this article was being submitted, Will Hurd, who made no secret of supporting “gun control,” dropped out of the race and endorsed Nikki Haley. Candidates radio host Larry Elder, businessman Perry Johnson, and former Vice President Mike Pence also dropped out of the race, and North Dakotas Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not qualify so their positions are no longer relevant to this article. We’ll publish any responses we get, or let you know who shined us on, at a later date. For now, let’s take a look at the likely contenders and see what they’ve said about the right to keep and bear arms, and more importantly, what they’ve done:

Donald Trump

“He’s great at talking the talk (until he’s not),” I wrote in an April Firearms News piece asking if he truly supports the Second Amendment. “Walking the walk is another thing entirely.” The article covered past statements of support juxtaposed against advocacy for “assault weapon” bans and past actions feeding the campaign war chests of avowed gun-grabbers like Charles Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Charlie Rangel, John Kerry, and donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Trump’s indifference to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to decry state level infringements reducing RKBA recognition to sub-foreign levels, has not gone unnoticed. Then there were problematic statements, such as his “Take the guns first, go through due process second” response to due process-denying “red flag laws.” Combine that with his call to raise the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21, his State Department Directorate of Defense Trade Controls continuing to restrict the export of “high-capacity magazines” to government end use only, his “I don’t like them at all” response when asked if suppressors should be restricted and admission  that he’d “like to think about” banning them, and his administration’s banning of bump stocks setting precedent  for ATF to “reclassify” pistol stabilizing braces, frames, receivers, and forced reset triggers, and opening the door to do the same with semiautomatics should Democrats retain the White House and get chances to remake the Supreme Court. In Trump’s favor: His SCOTUS nominees made possible the landmark Bruen decision that has reshaped the Second Amendment litigation landscape and is being used to great effect to unravel “the best laid schemes” of Democrat gun-grabbers and to thwart legislative and legal plots to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. There’s no denying, in his own words, that “Yuge.” 

Ron DeSantis

“DeSantis supports legislation to allow Floridians with concealed weapons permits to carry guns openly and on college campuses,” On the Issues documents. “He has also criticized the gun control measures in the bill passed by lawmakers in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The legislation banned rifle sales to those under 21, prohibited bump stocks and placed a three-day waiting period on all gun sales.”

The solution to gun violence is "'identifying the problem people” rather than enforcing “blanket bans on the rights of law-abiding citizens,” DeSantis was quoted in the “2018 CampusElect.org Issue Guide” on the Florida Governor race. “Opposes restrictions on gun purchases,” Project Vote Smart concluded from summarizing DeSantis’ public speeches and statements. “We also understand that part of fighting crime is to protect Floridians' right to defend themselves,” DeSantis declared in his 2023 State of the State address. “A constitutional right should not require a permission slip from the government. It is time we join 25 other states to enact constitutional carry in the state of Florida!” He signed the bill into law in April. Aside from expected hysteria from the gun prohibition lobby/Democrats, there was also dissatisfaction expressed in gun rights corners that the bill did not allow for open carry and that DeSantis could have done more to pressure for it.

Vivek Ramaswamy

“GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said convicted felons should have the right to carry guns in an interview with former Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo,” Forbes and other media outlets report. “Ramaswamy said everyone ‘has the right to’ carry a gun when Cuomo asked if former felons were included in his ‘Second Amendment absolutist’ principles.”

“Restricting gun ownership will lead to ‘more lawbreakers continuing to own guns, while law-abiding citizens don’t,” Ramaswamy was quoted. “He added that background checks are ‘absolutely a legitimate part of the process,’ prompting Cuomo to argue that if former felons are allowed to have guns, ‘background checks are meaningless.’” They both have a point. Anyone who can’t be trusted with a gun can’t be trusted without a custodian, which Ramaswamy acknowledges advocating “Instead of removing ‘guns from law-abiding citizens,’ … people who are ‘psychiatrically ill and dangerous and violent’ should be removed from their communities and institutionalized.” And background checks are already meaningless. They don’t deter criminals from illegally getting guns, and no less a source than the National Institute of Justice concluded in its 2013 “Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies” that “Effectiveness depends on the ability to reduce straw purchasing, requiring gun registration…”

From On the Issues, citing CSPAN, he said, “The Second Amendment is our last line of defense. You know who knew that? Our Founding Fathers knew it. The first shots that were fired in Lexington and Concord was because the British monarchy came to take the guns of the colonists. They came to take the guns because they knew where the guns and bullets were stored. Think of that gun registry today. The Founding Fathers said, what the British monarchy did to us, we will create a government to make sure that government never does it to you.”

Nikki Haley

“My stance on guns: As a CWP holder, I am pro 2nd amendment and pro 10th amendment and will defend both,” Haley wrote on her Facebook page. I would support open carry and reciprocity with any other state. The horrible shootings we have seen over the past few years have been related to individuals with mental health so my administration went right to the source. My first year in office we dramatically increased funding to mental health by $16 mill the first year and $11 mill this past budget. I am committed to helping those with mental health issues get the help they need while defending our 2nd amendment.”

“You know, everybody wants to say, oh, let's get rid of AR-15s. The reality is, even if you did that, it might make you feel good today, there's going to be another shooting next week. The reason a lot of these happened, and you mentioned that shooting at the schools, you need to end gun-free zones. Killers always look for a place that's a gun-free zone, because guess what, nobody else is going to be able to protect themselves,” Haley told CNN. Other quotes nailing down specifics include “I don't trust government to deal with red flag laws … The right to bear arms was deemed so critical by our Founders that they spelled it out in absolute terms, and any governmental action that undermines that right is in turn undermining the very freedoms that built our great nation … we need to make the rules that govern carrying far more simple…”  Unlike the other candidates, Haley openly owns at least one modern sporting rifle (MSR) which leftists like to call “assault weapons.” In June of 2014, Haley accepted a PTR-91 rifle (semi-auto G3-type rifle) from PTR Industries, a firearms manufacturer in her state. She has also been very open with photos of her firing MSRs and machineguns.

Tim Scott

The Senator from South Carolina opposes new gun laws, says “To rush to judgment” after school shootings “is a bit premature...” His campaign website calls the Second Amendment “a fundamental freedom and a cornerstone of our democracy.” Other bullet points from On the Issues include: “Opposes restricting gun purchase & possession; Loosen restrictions on interstate gun purchases; Allow veterans to register unlicensed guns acquired abroad; Oppose the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty; [and] Opposes restrictions on right to bear arms.”  Vote Smart provides a voting record for Scott on guns that him voting against prohibiting firearm transfers to “suspected” terrorists; the Fix Gun Checks Act; an “assault weapon” ban; a magazine ban; and a requirement for private sale background checks.

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Scott supported a resolution “disapproving” the Social Security Administration rule restricting “gun purchases by individuals deemed incapable of managing their federal benefit payments”; “delaying transfer of firearms to a suspected terrorist for up to 3 days while seeking a court order to prevent the transfer”; invoking  cloture on an amendment to the background check system for gun purchases; amending concealed carry regulations in Washington, D.C;  concealed carry reciprocity; and a resolution prohibiting the United States from entering the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.

Chris Christie

On the Issues summarizes Christie’s stances, which are heavy on law enforcement and short on unalienable rights. While he understands that “criminals don’t follow the law” and wants to lock them up “in federal prisons,” and admits gun laws are ineffective, he justifies many of New Jersey’s “gun control” laws citing “safety of our police officers on [and] mak[in g] sure that we don't have an abundance of guns out there." On the plus side, he vetoed state IDs for gun owners, said an executive order on guns is “not a democracy. That's a dictatorship,” and he “vetoed an outright ban on the powerful Barrett .50 caliber rifle, even though he initially proposed a ban on future purchases” and “a reduction in the magazine capacity from 15 to 10.” On the negative side, he wants to “include mental health records in gun background checks,” “make involuntary commitment of people who speak violently easier for doctors,” says terror watch lists are a state issue, and opposes reciprocity.

On the unforgivable side is a 1993 campaign statement: “The issue which has energized me to get into this race is the recent attempt by certain Republican legislators to repeal New Jersey's ban on assault weapons. In today's society, no one needs a semi-automatic assault weapon," followed with a 1995 campaign postcard declaring: “Chris Christie and Rick Merkt support the ban on assault weapons. Tony Bucco and Mike Carroll want to repeal the ban on automatic assault weapons. It’s dangerous. It’s crazy. It’s radical. They must be stopped. Say NO to Bucco and Carroll’s radical plan to legalize assault weapons.”

And the winner is…

We’ll have to see if the Democrats are successful in their unrelenting subversive lawfare to derail Donald Trump and if the Supreme Court stands by and lets that happen. We’ll also need to see if the Republicans have learned anything since last time about election integrity oversight, and if they can keep their “anyone but Trump” swamp denizens in check. The one thing the “Red Wave” that never happened should have taught them is that a critical mass of the Constitutionally ignorant electorate will vote Democrat no matter how badly Dotard-in-Chief Joe Biden continues to fail, or how radical a potential replacement for him may prove to be. In order to beat that, Republicans need to inspire voters to get involved and do those things necessary to win: Organize, donate, volunteer, and advocate within their spheres of influence.

There’s a growing number of American gun owners disillusioned by politics and subscribing to the TINVOWOOT (“There is no voting our way out of this”) philosophy. What Republicans also need to understand is that gun owners are fed up with betrayals and “lesser of two evils” poltroons, and there’s a critical mass of us who will not disarm even if they blow it. At this writing, various news reports are speculating on Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin entering the race for president. If that happens, we’ll make sure to profile him and ask him the same questions. Firearms News will let you know if any of the candidates answers our questionnaire.


If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




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