Thursday, January 5, 2012

How the Presidential Candidates rate on gun rights

It can be difficult to determine where your favorite Presidential Candidate stands on the Second Amendment if you only listen to their standard talking points. As a result it is helpful to look at their ratings from the gun rights organizations that you trust. Unfortunately the NRA does not rate candidates specifically for the primary, so you have to do some digging through the NRA PVF Archive to find NRA ratings from past elections. For your convenience, I've done the digging for you, and below is what I found for the current top contenders along with the date that the NRA rated them.

NRA PVF Ratings:

Be aware that there are significant concerns with anti-gun legislation that Rick Santorum has voted for in the late 1990's. There are also concerns about legislation Romney signed in 2004 when he was Governor in Massachusetts. Kurt Hofmann has gathered together the details on past gun rights concerns with Santorum and Romney. I have sent questionnaires to the press e-mail of both Santorum and Romney to ask them detailed questions on their current position on critical gun rights issues - if I get responses from either I will post them on this blog.

Unlike the NRA which rates incumbant candidates based on a mathematical grade scale measurment of specific gun rights votes and actions, the GOA rates candidates on a subjective gut feeling of the GOA President, so I recommend considering the GOA ratings as the subjective opinion of a single gun rights activist. However, here are the GOA 2012 Presidential Primary candidate ratings which includes some details on why the GOA rated some of them the way they did.

Update 1: Clarification from the NRA on the 2004 Legislation Mitt Romney Signed


BambiB said...

The NRA grading system is no more, a probably significantly less reliable than the GOA's.

For example, Ron Paul has not only defended the Second Amendment from infringement, he has proposed rolling back legislation that currently infringes the Second Amendment - specifically, repealing the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firearms Act of 1934. The GOA gives Paul their highest rating (A+) and recently conferred on him their "Defender of the Second Amendment Award" based on a lifetime of Second Amendment defense.

Conversely, nothing in the NRA measurement appears to take into account consistency of candidates on the issue. Other candidates (Santorum, Romney, Gingrich) have altered positions with the political winds. For more than 25 years, Paul's stance on the Second Amendment has been solid and unwavering.

Rick Perry seems to be staunchly pro-Second Amendment. But as a former campaign manager for Al Gore, at a time when Gore's election was seen as the necessary precursor to the United States signing up for an international treaty on Small Arms and Light Weapons that would have crippled, or perhaps even swept away the Second Amendment, we should be circumspect about Perry. How could he not only have supported a man who was strongly invested in neutralizing the Second Amendment, but have worked to get him elected?

A good portion of NRA ratings appear to be political expediency. A candidate who appears more electable gets an inflated rating if they're not anti-Second Amendment. The NRA theory appears to be that this tends to preserve good will and perhaps open opportunities for negotiation in the event of the most likely candidate being elected. Thus a "B" candidate who appears likely to win, may get an "A", while an "A" candidate in the same race may get a "B" if he appears less likely to win. Romney's "B" from the NRA is sheer grade inflation. A GOA "D+" is a much more honest rating for a candidate who is on record as saying Massachussett's gun laws are "reasonable".

Bear in mind that the NRA is a compromising organization. Where the anti-gun folks have come for our rights, the NRA has traditionally negotiated with them "somewhere in the middle" rather than standing up for our rights and demanding they be respected. See NRA- Lapses in Principle . Note especially the articles NRA Supported the National Firearms Act of 1934 and America's largest gun control organization. To see one example of NRA candidate rating, visit, NRA funnels members' cash to gun control advocate Baucus or NRA Backing Wrong Horse in California—Why?. Note the names of the authors: Founder of JPFO president. David Codrea. Vin Suprynowicz. See what the NRA has said about itself:

"The National Rifle Association has been in support of workable, enforceable gun control legislation since its very inception in 1871." - NRA Executive Vice President Franklin L. Orth, The American Rifleman ,October 1968.

I'm a Life Member of the NRA, but when I want to know which candidates really hold solid core convictions regarding the Second Amendment, I use the GOA ratings. If you want to run with the political herd, buy into political expediency, chase the Second Amendment claims of the moment made by candidates whose history may contain assorted overlooked attacks on the Second Amendment, the NRA ratings are a better choice.

Dustin said...

I stand by my position that the GOA ratings are the opinions of a single activist. However, I will let you know that the only reason Ron Paul does not have an A+ with the NRA, is because he has been forced to vote against some pro gun legislation that the NRA was in favor of, but Ron Paul voted against for other reasons. One example is that Ron Paul voted against the legislation that was put in place to support manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits. The NRA graded that vote so it counted against Ron Paul when he voted against it. I'm guessing that Ron Paul voted against the legislation not because he hates gun manufacturers, but because it had something else in it that he didn't like.

Regardless of the above, I consider Ron Paul to have an A+ in my book when it comes to the 2nd Amendment. Even though he does not always vote for legislation that the NRA supports, he ALWAYS votes in favor of the constitution, and that is good enough for me.

BambiB said...

Okay, assume the NRA actually scores based on the votes of selected bills. Who selects which bills are graded - and how? Could it be (*gasp*) a "single activist"?

The original article seemed to imply that the NRA rating system was somehow "better" than the GOA approach. After all, there are the NRA ratings front and center in the body of the article. The GOA ratings? Well, there's a link, but that's hardly equal treatment. I might expect an even-handed approach to show all of the candidate ratings in a single table... something like:

Paul | A- | A+
Romney | B | D-
Santorum | A+ | B-


(Sorry for the appearance of the "table" but the POS blog software won't accept a table tag.)

My point wasn't to quibble over who or how many are involved in the scoring, but rather to illustrate that the there's no mathematical certitude, inherent rectitude or special lack of bias involved in the NRA ratings. I was aware of Paul's vote on the legislation you mentioned, and yes, his objections were (as usual when voting "No") based purely on Constitutional grounds. According to this article the NRA lied about Paul's record, dropped his rating, would not disclose how the ratings were generated and backed a Democrat in the 2006 congressional race. This article sums it all up rather nicely.

Incidentally, it was the NRA's vindictive approach to Paul that convinced me to stop contributing to the NRA - and send my money instead to the GOA.

As someone who has studied gun control issues quite closely for more than 20 years, my general impression is that GOA shoots straight, but NRA frequently seems to adjust their opinions based on political windage... as the links I provided illustrate.

Read. Learn. Think.

peacelovewoodstock said...

The NRA strongly supported the so-called "ban" that Romney signed in 2004. The actual impact of that bill has been widely and grossly misreported.

Read the NRA's own press release here:

"NRA and GOAL supported this bill because it did not ban any guns, and because it made much-needed reforms."

Dustin said...

Jimmy: Thanks for the link. I've added an updated to the bottom of the post.

Dustin said...

BambiB: I beg to differ on your comment that a single person in the NRA selects the bills to be graded. The NRA has millions of members who vote to elect board members who in turn appoint executive members to run the NRA. The millions of members and the board members are in contol of the NRA, not a single activist. That my friend is the difference between the NRA and the GOA. The NRA never makes everyone happy, because it is impossible for millions of people to ever agree on everything. However, the NRA grade scale is much more fair than the arbitrary method that the GOA is using. It isn't perfect, but it makes more sense in my opinion.

I read through the links you shared, I understand the anger when the grade scale doesn't work perfectly for your favorite candidate, but it still does not change my opinion. I already explained how a given candidate can end up getting less than an A+ based on the bills they vote against. That is my opinion, you can have yours.

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