Let me start this post by injecting a little dose of political reality. The GOP field is what we’ve got to run against Obama, and that’s it. It doesn’t matter who shoulda/woulda/coulda run, the only ones who put themselves on the ballots are the only choices voters have in 2012. As much as I would love for Tim Pawlenty to still be in this race, he opted to drop out. I’ve seen people lament Mitch Daniels not entering the race, and don’t get me started on how many folks would cheer Paul Ryan making a run for the White House. None of that matters. None of those men put themselves on the ballot for president.
If Mitt ends up winning the race because GOP voters choose him in the nation’s primaries, gun owners need to know the truth about Mitt Romney’s record on guns as Governor of Massachusetts. I have said before many, many times that as a gun owner in Massachusetts during his term, I was extremely active in the efforts to fight more gun control. Guess who was on our side for that battle? Mitt.
As the state’s most active gun rights group notes in their write-up on Romney’s record, gun owners were able to make more reforms to the state’s oppressive gun laws under Mitt than they had in more than 20 years.
During the Romney Administration, no anti-Second Amendment or anti-sportsmen legislation made its way to the Governorâ€™s desk.
Governor Romney did sign five pro-Second Amendment/pro-sportsmen bills into law. His administration also worked with Gun Ownersâ€™ Action League and the Democratic leadership of the Massachusetts House and Senate to remove any anti-Second Amendment language from the Gang Violence bill passed in 2006.
But what’s this? Didn’t you get the forwarded email from GOA and NAGR that Mitt went around and personally confiscated every firearm he called an “assault weapon” from gun owners in Massachusetts? I kid, but the exaggeration doesn’t seem terribly far off from some of the claims I’ve seen floating around the internet written by people who were not in the Bay State at the time and have no idea what gun laws were like before Mitt took office.
Massachusetts already had an AWB that was actually worse than the federal ban in unique ways. On the surface, it was exactly the same because it was partially tied to language in the federal ban. The state ban that was already on the books didnâ€™t have an expiration date â€“ their way of making sure that no matter what happened to the federal ban, the state ban would stand. In theory, when the federal ban expired, what was already on the books in Massachusetts would have just kept the same limits in effect. However, close reading revealed some big dangers for gun owners.
The state ban, in addition to no expiration date, didnâ€™t have the list of nearly 700 exempted guns that the federal ban allowed. In other words, lawful gun owner would become illegal assault weapons owner overnight and probably never understand why. If an enterprising prosecutor wanted to build up some gun convictions very quickly without much work, he or she could suddenly go after every owner of an M-1 Carbine, Mini-14, Marlin Model 60, or Ruger 10/22 (or other guns on this list) and have a collection of â€œassault weaponâ€ criminals locked up.
The original bill was written by an anti-gun senator who planned to expand the federal AWB dramatically. I donâ€™t even remember all the crap he wanted to ban, but it was absurd. However, he introduced it as the federal law was getting ready to expire so he could claim that he was merely making sure the same federal ban remained in place at the state level. Reporters never bothered to check that the state already had their own version with no expiration date (and no list of exempted guns), so they ate up his talking points. Gun owners managed to get enough pressure on lawmakers to strip out all of the expansion provisions, put in a bunch of reforms, and add one little bit of language to the state ban that was already on the books before Romney ever took office. They formally tied the state ban to the federal ban in a way that preserved the list of exempted guns.
So, what you really should be saying is that legislators managed to SAVE nearly 700 guns from being suddenly declared unlawful in the state, add in several reforms to licensing that were a problem, and put the stops on an anti-gun bill in a creative way that the media never saw coming.
Here is GOAL’s full write-up of what the bill did for gun owners in the Bay State:
1) Established the Firearm License Review Board (FLRB). The 1998 law created new criteria for disqualifying citizens for firearms licenses that included any misdemeanor punishable by more than two years even if no jail time was ever served.
For instance, a first conviction of operating a motor vehicle under the influence would result in the loss of your ability to own a handgun for life and long guns for a minimum of five years. This Board is now able to review cases under limited circumstances to restore licenses to individuals who meet certain criteria.
2) Mandated that a minimum of $50,000 of the licensing fees be used for the operation of the FLRB so that the Board would not cease operating under budget cuts.
3) Extended the term of the stateâ€™s firearm licenses from 4 years to 6 years.
4) Permanently attached the federal language concerning assault weapon exemptions in 18 USC 922 Appendix A to the Massachusetts assault weapons laws. This is the part that the media misrepresented.
In 1998 the Massachusetts legislature passed its own assault weapons ban (MGL Chapter 140, Section 131M). This ban did not rely on the federal language and contained no sunset clause. Knowing that we did not have the votes in 2004 to get rid of the state law, we did not want to loose all of the federal exemptions that were not in the state law so this new bill was amended to include them.
5) Re-instated a 90 day grace period for citizens who were trying to renew their firearm license. Over the past years, the government agencies in charge had fallen months behind in renewing licenses. At one point it was taking upwards of a year to renew a license. Under Massachusetts law, a citizen cannot have a firearm or ammunition in their home with an expired license.
6) Mandated that law enforcement must issue a receipt for firearms that are confiscated due to an expired license. Prior to this law, no receipts were given for property confiscated which led to accusations of stolen or lost firearms after they were confiscated by police.
7) Gave free license renewal for law enforcement officers who applied through their employing agency.
8) Changed the size and style of a firearm license to that of a driverâ€™s license so that it would fit in a normal wallet. The original license was 3â€ x 4â€.
9) Created stiffer penalties for armed home invaders.
They have a full list of other things Mitt signed and did during his term to improve the situation for the state’s gun owners. Were there setbacks under him? Yes. To his people’s credit, they did work to correct the situation. I only hope he still has those folks who learned their lesson on the issue around him. If you want an idea of many of his missteps, go read the full report from GOAL because they do include them.
I say all of this not because I’m trying to shill for the man. I’m not actually a fan of Mitt Romney’s, and I don’t anticipate voting for him in the Pennsylvania primary. However, if the other Republican voters around the country choose him as the candidate, I believe we are doing our constituency a disservice if we aren’t honest about Mitt’s record on gun rights.
Will Mitt, if elected, appoint fantastic pro-Second Amendment judges and justices? I hope so, but I realize there’s no guarantee. What I do know is that based on what we have seen from Obama’s appointments, we will absolutely get more anti-Second Amendment justices out of a second term. I’d rather take my chances with a president who may be willing to listen to me, along with millions of other gun owners who are concerned about our rights. Whether it’s on the issue of judicial appointments or signing bills, I realize the reality of our chances with Obama in the Oval Office versus a candidate like Mitt Romney.
All of that said, why did TPaw have to bow out so soon? *sob*