Is Mitt Romney a fearless defender of the Second Amendment, a fierce anti-gun zealot or a flip-flopper merely looking to capitalize on the right to bear arms for political gain? The jury may still be out, but BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski claims that the Republican presidential nominee has a “complicated history on guns.” The Wall Street Journal, too, embraces this notion:
Mr. Romney’s record on guns as governor was mixed. He signed an assault-weapons ban in 2004, but gun-rights groups supported the bill because it created certain protections for gun owners, according to a scorecard compiled by the Gun Owners’ Action League. During his tenure as governor, Mr. Romney also proposed raising the fees for a permit to $75 from $25. The legislature eventually bumped it up to $100.
Gun-rights advocates said their relationship with Mr. Romney and his staff improved noticeably during his tenure as governor. In 2005, he deemed May 7 “Right to Bear Arms Day.”
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Romney has been unequivocal in his opposition to any new restrictions on gun owners, saying he believes in “safe and responsible gun ownership” as long as those who exercise the right “do so lawfully and properly.” His campaign website says Mr. Romney “will fight the battle on all fronts to protect and promote the Second Amendment.”
In the past, Romney has seemed — at moments — to part ways with the National Rifle Association (NRA), but today, he will address the NRA’s Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum. Through a timeline of events, statements and documentation, Romney’s opinions on guns and the Second Amendment can be tracked and assessed.
First, BuzzFeed presents a 1994 clip from a Massachusetts Senatorial seat debate between Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney. In it, Romney derided Kennedy for working to ensure that “there would not be mandatory sentences imposed on people who used guns in the commission of crimes.”
Watch the debate, below:
In 2002, Romney was seen discussing Massachusetts gun laws — laws he said he supported and would not chip away at (Romney became governor in 2003 and served until 2007). “They (the laws) help protect us and provide for our safety,” he said:
During the same year, while running for governor, he claimed that, once “the science tells us it works,” he’d support ballistic fingerprinting (the NRA, among other right-leaning groups has been highly critical in the past of this method of crime-fighting).
Romney, of course, was careful to say that he would rely on studies before definitively supporting it:
BuzzFeed also provides a screen shot from Romney’s 2002 web site that reiterated his support for “the strict enforcement of gun laws” and “the federal assault weapons ban.” But the statement also claims that he supported hunters who “responsibly own and use firearms.”
In a 2004 press release, Romney signed a permanent assault weapons ban into law in Massachusetts. But while many will see this as an anti-gun stance, there were some elements within the provision that assisted gun proponents.
For example, a two-year extension on the firearm identification card and term was granted and a 90-day grace period was given for those seeking to renew licenses. Here’s a copy of the letter announcing these regulatory changes:
In 2007, he reiterated support for the Second Amendment and claimed that he has a gun, goes hunting and is a member of the NRA. BuzzFeed called these claims “false.” After Romney made his gun ownership claim, he was corrected — and he inevitably admitted — that the gun was his son’s and not his own.
At a town hall event earlier this year, Romney, again, claimed that he owns guns. Following his statement, a spokesperson told reporters that the candidate owns two shotguns. The natural question is: Did he purchase them after the 2007 flap? Listen to his comments from 2007, below:
At a Feb. 2012 town hall, Romney comprehensively stated the reasons why he believes Americans should be able to purchase guns.
“But we have a right in this country to bear arms and I know that there are people who think that somehow that should change and they keep looking for laws for a way to stop awful things from happening,” he said. “And there are awful things that happen. But there already are laws that are designed to protect people and unfortunately people violate the laws.”
Romney continued, going on to discuss how the laws should be managed.
“So trying to find more laws to change bad behavior isn’t the answer, the answer is to find that bad behavior the people who are inclined to bad behavior, my own view is lets protect the second amendment let’s protect the right of Americans to bear arms whether for hunting, for sportsman for personal protection for whatever legal purpose someone might have,” he said.
During the same year as the gun-ownership mishap, Romney said “I don’t line up 100 percent with the NRA,” as he went on to explain some of his views on gun laws:
Also in 2007, he said “my door was always open to you” in an address to NRA members at the annual Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum:
So, it seems Romney’s record is indeed complicated when it comes to guns. While he has consistently defended the Second Amendment, he has done so with numerous caveats. These exceptions will likely be viewed as reasonable by some and as evidence of flip-floppery by others.
In the end, the former Massachusetts governor and likely GOP presidential nominee has taken — all things considered — a relatively moderate stance on gun regulation. In the past, the NRA has given Romney a “B” grade for his handling of these issues. This, too, corroborates the notion that he has had a mixed bag of policies when it comes to addressing ownership and usage.