Candidates on Gun Control

With a second Virginia Tech shooting, The Daily Beast surveys the presidential candidates on gun control.

The 2007 Virginia Tech shooting prompted a heated debate over gun control, with those on the left treating it as evidence of the need for tougher regulation while some on the right argued that if the school hadn’t been a gun-free zone, well-armed students might have stopped the shooter. With a second shooting at the school, The Daily Beast surveys the current presidential contenders for their views of guns. 

Henny Ray Abrams / AP Photo

Rick Perry

It should come as no surprise that the Republican candidate famous for jogging with a laser-sighted pistol is popular with the National Rifle Association. He's also supported legislation directly relevant to the Virginia Tech shooting: a bill allowing concealed weapons in college classrooms. As governor of Texas, Rick Perry has signed laws allowing people to keep guns in their cars at work, take guns on boats, and shoot coyotes and hogs from helicopters. This summer, Perry condemned a new Department of Justice rule that requires gun dealers on the U.S.-Mexico border to notify the federal government whenever someone buys multiple semi-automatic rifles.

Evan Vucci / AP Photo

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann rallied NRA members to her cause earlier this year, saying, “The right to keep and bear arms has to be protected because the Second Amendment is the final guarantor of all our constitutional rights.” As a congresswoman, she cosponsored the Citizens’ Self-Defense Act, the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, and the District of Columbia Personal Protection Act. Her weapon of choice: an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle.

Erik Kellar / AP Photo

Newt Gingrich

Gingrich is harder to pin down. He’s spoken adamantly in favor of gun rights and attacked President Obama for appointing pro-gun-control judges. But gun groups have attacked him for supporting the Lautenberg law, which restricts gun ownership for people with domestic-violence charges. Gun Owners of America has attacked him for voting in favor of the “gun-free school zones act.” 

Paul Sancya / AP Photo

Mitt Romney

Like the rest of the GOP field, Romney has come out against attempts to restrict gun ownership, saying, “The Second Amendment protects the individual right of lawful citizens to keep and bear arms. I strongly support this essential freedom.” But as Gun Owners of America pointed out, when he was governor of Massachusetts Romney spoke in favor of the Brady Law’s five-day waiting period and signed a law banning some semi-automatic weapons. "We have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them,” he said during a debate against Democrat Shannon O'Brien in 2002. 

Paul Sancya / AP Photo

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum supported pro-gun legislation during his turns as a Pennsylvania representative and senator, voting in favor of a bill that protects gun manufacturers from being sued for crimes perpetrated using their weapons. A year later, he introduced an NRA-supported bill to eliminate a provision requiring people to give their Social Security numbers when getting a hunting license. Like all the Republican candidates, he’s praised the Second Amendment in campaign speeches. 

Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP Photo

Jon Huntsman

As governor of Utah, Huntsman won the affection of the NRA by signing two bills loosening the state’s gun regulations. One allowed drivers to keep loaded weapons in their cars without a concealed weapons permit, and the other required businesses to allow cars parked on the property to contain firearms. Except for a slip when he said he would not veto an assault-weapons ban—he later recanted—he’s been uniformly against gun control during his presidential campaign. 

Paul Sancya / AP Photo

Ron Paul

Ron Paul has perhaps fought harder against gun control than any other current candidate. He’s repeatedly introduced legislation to repeal the Brady Bill, written a bill to allow pilots to carry firearms, and written legislation to end U.S. membership in the United Nations, which he criticizes for “global gun-control schemes like the so-called ‘Small Arms Treaty.’” Gun Owners of America gives him an A+, saying he “has sponsored legislation to repeal most gun laws dating back to 1968.”

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

President Obama

President Obama has been largely silent on gun control since the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, when he promised to develop new checks for firearm safety. Gun-control groups like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence have been sharply critical of his record, giving him an F for his first year in office after he signed legislation allowing people to carry weapons in national parks and check them in their luggage on trains. Pro-gun groups have been critical as well, accusing him of quietly working to improve the monitoring of gun sales, especially near the U.S.-Mexico border.