Dave Kopel, whom I respect greatly–and whom I hosted for a well-received campus lecture during my college days–recently published a piece on NRO ripping Governor Romney’s record on guns (as well as Speaker Gingrich’s and Mayor Giuliani’s). He also makes a very bold statement relating to Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico:
If the Republicans nominated Giuliani and the Democrats Richardson, the NRA would be crazy not to support Richardson with everything in its political arsenal.
He doesn’t make the same statement about a Romney vs. Richardson race, but he does praise the record of Governor Huckabee. (In all honestly, I haven’t heard that name mentioned seriously in a while.)
I’ve weighed in on this issue before in my capacity as EFM’s self-proclaimed resident gun nut, but let me revise and extend my comments in light of Kopel’s.
To my eye, his objections to Governor Romney’s record fall into these main areas:
* Governor Romney supported and signed a ban on so-called “assault weapons”;
* The pro-gun aspects of it came largely from signing bills that got through Massachusetts’ left-wing legislature, not from leadership on the issue; and
* In one case he thought the aforementioned extremist legislature was, well, not extremist enough.
I responded to the “assault weapons” point in my previous post. I’m also not convinced of the third argument mentioned above due simply to the vagueness of the information. Here’s what Kopel writes:
But Romney occasionally considered the Democratic-dominated Massachusetts legislature too soft on gun owners. In the summer of 2002, the Massachusetts house overwhelmingly passed a bill to relax the state’s lifetime ban on gun ownership for persons convicted of some misdemeanors. Faced with a bill that had passed the left-leaning House by a huge margin, Governor Romney declared his opposition, while allowing that he would back a much “more narrow proposal” (Boston Globe, July 17, 2002, page B4). (The narrower proposal was eventually included in the 2004 bill which he did sign.)
The Globe piece supplying the details is not available online except for a fee, so without examining it, I’m simply not willing to jump on the bandwagon here–I want to know what these misdemeanors were.
To the remaining point, I would frankly grant Kopel’s premise that Governor Romney was not an amazing leader on the gun issue during his term in Massachusetts. But looking at it realistically, I don’t think that should disqualify him from the support of gun nuts like me. In Massachusetts of all places, I’m not sure I can fault the guy for not throwing himself full-scale at the gun issue, important as it is to me, while the institution of marriage was under withering attack, the budget was a mess, and the entire leftist establishment–including the media–had him in its sights. I think the only way you can have such an expectation is if you are a single-issue voter–and I’m not. (Kopel, to be fair, is far more concerned with guns than any other issue, as well as being a registered Democrat, so his perspective makes sense given the source.)
I’m much more favorably disposed, however, to the oft-quoted maxim of William F. Buckley Jr.–that is, that conservatives should support “the rightward-most viable candidate.” That means considering all the issues, as well as the realm of the possible. And if you compare Governor Romney’s willingness to work with gun owners to that of Mayor Giuliani and Senator McCain–who, it’s more than fair to say, have been leaders on the other side of the issue–and his (a) likelihood of going anywhere in the primary or general, (b) executive leadership ability, and (c) position on other critical issues to those of any other contender…well, I think it’s clear who satisfies the requirements of WFB’s maxim.