Evaluating 2016 Presidential Candidates on Gun Ownership

(Editor’s note: The following is a submission by freelance writer Dabney Bailey. Videos were added for context.)

It’s mid-2015, and already politicians are lacing their shoes for the 2016 presidential race. They’re getting ready, so why shouldn’t the gun owners of America prepare as well? Arm yourself (with knowledge, that is) for the upcoming 2016 presidential bid by brushing up on the candidates’ stances on gun control and gun ownership.

As a quick disclaimer, this article is going to strive for objective neutrality. The popular stereotype of gun owners is that we lean a bit to the right (okay, a lot to the right), but there are plenty of left-leaning gun enthusiasts out there. This article will present facts, quotes and leave it up to you to decide what to do with your vote.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary doesn’t exactly have a warm relationship with gun rights. She’s voted against a bill that would have prohibited lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence, and on multiple occasions she’s encouraged gun owners to keep their guns and ammo locked away separately.

Interestingly, she’s gone on record stating that she is generally in favor of letting localities figure out gun laws. Under this reasoning, it’s possible that a theoretical President Clinton will take a somewhat laissez-faire approach to gun control and let the states handle it.

Quote to Remember: “I also believe that every new handgun sale or transfer should be registered in a national registry.”

(Editor’s note: Un-objectively speaking, Bill-ary Clinton is rabidly anti-gun.  Take a look at this article: “Hillary Clinton’s Best Quotes on the Second Amendment” for a more in-depth look at her stance on gun control.)

Bernie Sanders

The Berning Man is kind of a mixed bag. He voted in favor of banning high-capacity magazines over 10 rounds and keeping the gun waiting period at three days instead of one. However, he voted in favor of allowing firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak trains, and he voted against the Brady Bill.

Bernie’s a bit tricky for gun owners to read because it’s not exactly clear where he draws the line. Based on his voting record, it’s generally safe to say that this left-leaning candidate has a moderate stance on gun control. All things considered, Sanders may very well be the most pro-gun Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.

Quote to Remember: “If you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen.”

Ben Carson

And now onto the Republicans! First up, we’ve got Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who generally gives a thumbs up to gun ownership. He’s voted in against gun ownership registration and feels that semiautomatic firearms are perfectly acceptable in the countryside (city folk are out of luck, though).

Quote to Remember: “I think if you live in the midst of a lot of people, and I’m afraid that that semiautomatic weapon is going to fall into the hands of a crazy person, I would rather you not have it.”

Ted Cruz

Unlike Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz has no problem with 10-round magazines. What he does have a problem with is virtually any attempt to restrict the Second Amendment! He authored a brief on behalf of 31 states supporting your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

If you’re looking to vote on gun rights alone, you’re not going to find a candidate much better than Cruz.

Quote to Remember: “The second amendment is there so that you and I can protect our homes and our families and our children and our lives. And it’s also there as a fundamental check on government tyranny. And that ultimately is not subject to public opinion polls, it’s subject to the express protections of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.”

Carly Fiorina

Carly’s a strong advocate for gun rights. In 1994, she opposed a bill banning certain semiautomatic rifles, so-called “assault weapons.” She’s even gone so far as to say that people on the no-fly list should be allowed to own a gun — a position that even a few gun owners might not agree with.

Overall, she’s fairly close to Cruz in terms of gun-rights advocacy.

Quote to Remember: “We have loads of laws, and most of the time, criminals are breaking those laws and we are curtailing citizens’ lawful rights to carry guns. The assault weapons ban is extremely arbitrary about what qualifies as an assault weapon.”

Rand Paul

The NRA gave Rand Paul a ranking of AQ, which is two slots from the most pro-gun rank. The AQ rank is well-earned: he is a strong advocate of the Second Amendment, voting against restrictions on handguns and high-capacity magazines.

Rand’s rhetoric around the issue of gun rights has been a bit more aggressive than his Republican rivals, often referring to the Second Amendment as a valuable weapon in defense of personal freedom.

Quote to Remember: “We are the party that adheres to the Constitution. We will not let the liberals tread on the Second Amendment! We will fight to defend the entire Bill of Rights. We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it. We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king. We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.”

Marco Rubio

Rubio earned a respectable B+ ranking from the NRA, despite a solidly pro-gun political career. When serving as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio attempted (and ultimately failed) to push through a bill that would have allowed guns at work. He also possesses a concealed weapons permit, but that might be more for show than anything – he doesn’t actually carry a gun.

Multiple times, Rubio has taken stances against criminals getting guns, stating that he hopes to stop gun violence by operating within the Constitution rather than by restricting Second Amendment rights.

Quote to Remember: “We were all heart broken by the recent [Sandy Hook Shooting]. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.”

Mike Huckabee

Mike’s come out and said that he isn’t a “gun nut” – a bit strange considering that he owns a variety of firearms and is an avid hunter and sportsmen. He’s spoken out in favor of the Castle Doctrine and has argued that gun control isn’t effective at stopping gun violence. Makes you wonder: just how much do you have to support guns before you qualify as a “gun nut”? (Editor’s note: We consider “gun nut” to be a compliment, not a pejorative label).

Quote to Remember: “But even if I were not a hunter or did not enjoy shooting, I would still be a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment right of Americans to own firearms for self-protection and as a matter of principle.”

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