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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Where the 2016 candidates stand on gun rights

AP Photo

Associated Press 

In the wake of the Charleston tragedy, the issue of gun rights is hotly being debated and many candidates’ rhetoric is not matching their past actions.

Red Alert Politics decided to take a closer look at all of the potential and announced 2016 Republican and Democratic candidates’ positions and statements on gun rights. The results were mixed, leaving a field of the good, the bad, and the ugly on this issue.

The Good

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during the Road to Majority 2015 convention in Washington, Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during the Road to Majority 2015 convention in Washington, Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) 

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)

Santorum has long been an outspoken supporter of gun rights.

While in Congress, he voted in favor of loosening licenses and background checks at gun shows and prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

He has repeatedly slammed President Obama’s attempts to promote gun control after high-profile shooting.

“President Obama’s gun control recommendations fall far short in addressing the real issue here, putting an end to gun violence,” Santorum said in 2013 statement. “While the president did propose some reasonable measures, I’m disappointed, yet not surprised, to see so much emphasis on gun control and not enough on key contributors to mass shootings, mental illness and the impact of the entertainment industry’s glorification of violence.”

“As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I take issue with the Obama administration’s effort to take more control of our lives on the gun issue when we already have reasonable accommodations in place. We have seen time and time again when law-abiding citizens have used their legal firearms as a means of self-protection; our government cannot stand in the way of that. I come from a state with a rich heritage of hunting and fishing, and will fight to protect our right to bear arms for the sake of the freedoms we cherish as a nation,” Santorum continued.

The NRA gives him an “A+” rating.

Former  Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas)

Perry expanded gun rights as governor of Texas.

During his last term in office, Perry signed every pro-gun piece of legislation that came to his desk.

Being a supporter of states rights though, Perry has said that every state should be able to decide how they want to regulate on guns.

The NRA gives Perry an “A+” rating.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz holds an “A+” rating with the NRA.

The tea party senator is a strong advocate for gun rights, often stating that defending the Bill of Rights is more important than gun control advocates’ opinion.

“When you asked about the role of public opinion polls, when it comes to constitutional rights, what matters is what the Bill of Rights. It doesn’t matter what might be popular at the moment,” said Cruz at the 2015 NRA’s Annual Meeting and Exhibit in Nashville.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

If being a constitutional conservative, a libertarian, and having the support of the tea party doesn’t make a candidate rock solid on gun rights, nothing else will.

“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,” Paul said in his 2013 tea party response to the State of the Union.

In 2013, Gun Owners of America gave the Kentucky senator a 100 percent score and the NRA gives Paul an “A+” rating.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.)

“Voters want someone whose views on the Second Amendment understand that the basic issue is one of freedom and it’s not hunting,” said Huckabee in a 2007 Fox News interview.

Huckabee has held to that belief both in and out of elected office.

Despite having a Democratic legislature while he was governor of Arkansas, Huckabee supported the expansion of concealed carry laws and the “castle doctrine.”

The NRA gives Huckabee an “A+” rating as of 2002.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Having supported gun rights throughout his career, Graham voted in favor of allowing firearms to be checked in as baggage on Amtrak trains, prohibiting lawsuits agains gun manufacturers, and decreasing the gun wait period.

In 2013, Graham sponsored his sole piece of gun control legislation, a bill that would bar people with mental illness from purchasing a gun.

Graham has an “A-” rating with the NRA.

Carly Fiorina (R-Calif.)

Having only ran for one political office during her life, Fiorina’s politics on gun rights is hard to gauge.

Considering she ran in liberal California, Fiorina had a very conservative position on gun rights.

She opposed the 1994 assault weapons ban, the gun ban on people on the no-fly list, and other restrictions on people’s Second Amendment rights.

Fiorina received an “A” rating from the NRA when she was running in the 2010 California Senate election.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.)

Walker has said that the Second Amendment is not optional.

The Wisconsin governor signed legislation allowing the concealed carry of firearms and other weapons by permit holders and established the “castle doctrine” in which homeowners will not face prosecution if they shoot an intruder.

Other pro-gun legislation signed by Walker include allowing permit holders to carry concealed firearms into state buildings and Opposed legislation in 2013 to expand background checks on firearm sales.

He has an “A+” rating from the NRA.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

Jindal has long been a supporter of gun rights, in 2007 he received an “A+” rating by the NRA.

The Louisiana Gov. passed six laws in 2013 expanding gun rights including creating penalties for people who publish personal information of concealed handgun permit holders and allows off-duty law enforcement officers to carry guns onto school campuses.

In the wake of the South Carolina massacre Jindal said the country needs prayer more than gun-control.

“Government’s not going to eradicate evil. And that’s why it would be also a good time to call America to prayer,” Jindal said.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.)

The Former Florida Gov. is proud of his “A+” rating from the NRA.

“I will match my record against anyone else’s when it comes to the support and defense of the Second Amendment,” Bush said to a Nashville audience in April.

While governor, Bush passed six major pieces of pro-gun ownership reform, including the controversial “stand your ground” law.

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

Webb was one of them most conservative Democratic senators on the issue of gun control in the 21st Century.

He is in favor of allowing firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak, prohibiting foreign and UN aid that restricted gun ownership, allowing veterans to register unlicensed guns acquired abroad, and banning gun registration & trigger lock law in Washington DC.

The NRA said Webb agreed with their positions 92 percent of the time.

The Bad

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H., on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Trump announced his candidacy for President  yesterday. (Elizabeth Frantz/Concord Monitor via AP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H., on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Trump announced his candidacy for President yesterday. (Elizabeth Frantz/Concord Monitor via AP) 

Donald Trump (R-N.Y.)

Trump has been a mogul, an entrepreneur, and an American icon for decades, so he’s had a lot of time to change his position on every issue including gun control.

“I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons, and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within 72-hours if a potential gun owner has a record,” said Trump in 2000, when he was flirting with a run for the White House.

During a speech at CPAC in 2011, he sang a different tune. Trump said he opposed gun control.

Dr. Ben Carson (R-Md.)

Carson like Trump is hard to measure on this issue because he has never held or run for political office before.

While he has stated he supports gun rights, he also said in an interview with Glenn Beck that people in large cities have no right to own a semi-automatic weapon.

That would be difficult to legislate on a federal level, and it’s unsure what plans Carson has in this area if he becomes President.

Conversely, he also said in an interview with Sean Hannity that the Second Amendment is important in case the federal government ever “goes off the rails.”

Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio)

Kasich has held a political office since 1978 and has flip-flopped on gun rights issues significantly during that time.

While he was in Congress he voted for the 1994 ban on “assault weapons” and Bill Clinton’s Omnibus Crime Bill.

As governor of Ohio he has supported expanding certain gun rights, he signed a bill that eliminated a requirement that gun owners with a concealed handgun permit obtain a competency certificate to get their licenses renewed.

He also signed a bill allowing firearms in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, museums, and sports stadiums.

The NRA gave him a “A-” rating in 2014, but Kasich’s support for gun rights changes direction with political opportunity.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I- Vt.)

Sanders is a moderate on gun control, which makes him as good as they get in today’s Democratic Party.

The NRA endorsed him when he ran for Congress in 1990, but since has given him an “F” rating.

He stands apart from his fellow Democrats because of his votes against the 1993 Brady Bill and the 2005 bill that would have allowed civil liabilities against gun manufacturers.

Other strong pro-gun votes include allowing firearms as checked baggage on Amtrak trains and his support in prohibiting foreign & UN aid that restricts US gun ownership.

But by no means does that make him a right-winger.

He voted to banning high-capacity magazines of over 10 bullets and voted against reducing the wait time for gun purchases.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

Many on the right have viewed Christie as a “Republican in name only” (RINO), but his policy on gun control hasn’t been as liberal as his critics have characterized.

He’s vetoed the outright ban on certain guns, including the Barrett .50 caliber rifle. Christie also vetoed a bill that would have limited permitted size of high-capacity magazines

That doesn’t mean Christie has been a champion of gun rights in a blue state.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, Christie signed 10 gun-control bills. Those bills upgraded the penalty of unlawful possession of a firearm to a first-degree crime allowed authorities to impound cars if an occupant illegally possess a weapon and increased mandatory minimum sentencing.

Christie has a “C” rating from the NRA.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

While claiming to be a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, Rubio has a mixed history on gun rights.

As Speaker of the Florida State House, he failed to support legislation allowing employees to bring their gun to work. While running for the U.S. Senate, Rubio said he supported increasing background checks and waiting periods.

Also in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, Rubio signaled that he would support expanding new gun control measures.

Rubio’s history of changing his position on gun rights when it benefits him politically is the reason the NRA has given Rubio a “B+” rating as of 2010.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)

Clinton is hard to classify because she has changed her position often depending on the decade and election. As of now though, she belongs in the bad category and not in the ugly for one particular reason — she has learned not to do battle with the NRA on Capitol Hill.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralston on Thursday, Clinton stressed the need to promote gun control on the state level rather than the federal level.

According to John Heilemann of Bloomberg Politics, Clinton has learned from the gun lobby’s victories over Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well its sinking of the presidential campaign of Al Gore.

She has learned to fear the NRA rather than becoming a supporter of gun rights. She has changed her position so often, it’s unclear where she’ll stand in another year.

In 2000, she supported a national gun registry, but backed off that position in 2008. She supported greater background checks to prevent school shootings like Columbine and Virginia Tech.

“I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns, but I also believe that most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many years across our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out of the wrong hands,” said Hillary Clinton in her a 2008 Democratic debate.

The Ugly

Democratic presidential hopeful former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley in New Castle, N.H.,  Saturday, June 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Democratic presidential hopeful former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in New Castle, N.H., Saturday, June 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) 

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.)

O’Malley has a long history of pushing for strong gun control measures. As governor of Maryland he passed a ban on “assault weapons”, limited handgun magazines to 10 rounds, and required firearms owners to submit their fingerprints as part of their weapons licenses.

“I proudly hold an F rating from the NRA,” O’Malley said at campaign event in Iowa City, Iowa.

He’s calling for those same background checks, assault weapons ban, and fingerprint submission on a federal level. O’Malley said that he’s “pissed” over the South Carolina shooting that Congress has not passed more strict gun control measures.

Former Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.)

Pataki has been an outspoken supporter of gun control.

As governor of N.Y., he signed the nation’s strictest gun control laws in 2000, earning him the praise of pro-gun control liberal Democrats including former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.

The law banned “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition clips, increased the age to gain a gun permit to 21, and required all new guns to have trigger locks. It also required background checks for handgun buyers at gun shows.

Vice President Joe Biden (D)

Biden has been a long-time supporter of greater gun control. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he called for another Brady bill to curb gun ownership.

After the Virginia Tech shooting, Biden demanded the federal government to put 100,000 policemen on the street, a ban on “assault weapons”, close gun show loophole and focus on mental illness.

He voted no on prohibiting lawsuits against civil liability actions against gun manufacturers. While he was in the Senate, the NRA gave him an F for his pro-gun control voting record.

Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D- R.I.)

The Former Rhode Island governor claims to have a “common sense adherence to the Second Amendment.” By that Chafee means he supports stricter gun control measures.

As a senator, he received an “F” and “F-” grade from the NRA and Gun Owners of America, respectively.

Like Biden, he also voted against protecting gun manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers from civil liability lawsuits when their firearms or ammunition inflict damage or injury.

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