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A Second Amendment Voting Guide

Journey through the states and offices

By Dave Kopel

National Review Online. November 4 , 2002 11:25 a.m. More by Kopel on the 2002 election.

THE GOVERNORS

Democrats are almost sure to make major gains in governorships this year. What does that mean for Second Amendment rights? Let's take a look, state-by-state, using the candidate ratings from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund as a guide.

Alabama: Democratic Governor Don Siegelman (A+) is neck-in-neck with Rep. Bob Riley (A). Gun owners win either way.

Alaska: Antigun Democrat Governor Tony Knowles is leaving office. Contending for the open seat are Senator Frank Murkowski (A) and Democrat Fran Ulmer (C). Either will be an improvement over Knowles. Ulmer has called much attention to her ownership of eight guns, and her recent purchase of a compact handgun for carrying while campaigning.

Arizona: Outgoing Governor Jane Hull was supportive of gun owners. Republican former Rep. Matt Salmon (A) is slightly behind Attorney General Janet Napolitano (D).

Arkansas: Republican Governor Mike Huckabee (A+) is unexpectedly in trouble in his race against State Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher (A).

California: Despite terrible coverage by much the state's media, Bill Simon (A) still has a chance to upset Gray Davis (F). Davis poses as a moderate, but has made advertising one of the centerpieces of his campaign, and has signed a wide variety of repressive laws.

Colorado: Bill Owens (B+) won a very narrow victory in 1998 thanks to NRA help, but after the Columbine murders, he turned into the state's most effective gun-control advocate. In the last two years, he's again become a supporter of gun rights. He has the chance of winning a record landslide against Boulder Democrat Rollie Heath (D- ).

Connecticut: Incumbent Republic John Rowland (A) looks safe against ex-Comptroller Bill Curry (F).

Florida: Jeb Bush (A+) has a very tough contest with Bill McBride (F).

Georgia: Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes (A+) has been an outstanding Second Amendment leader, in the tradition of his predecessor Zell Miller. Barnes is expected to defeat ex-State Sen. Sonny Perdue (A).

Hawaii: Traditionally a one-party state, Hawaii may finally see a reaction against a terrible economy and corruption. Republican Linda Lingle (B), the former mayor of the island of Maui, lost the 1998 gubernatorial race by only a single point, and she appears to have the lead over Lieutenant Governor Mazie Hirono. In response, Lingle's opponents have started spreading rumors that she is a lesbian.

Idaho: Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (A) has a solid lead over publisher Jerry Brady, who refused to answer the NRA questionnaire.

Illinois: Antigun Republican George Ryan, having seen most of his agenda blocked in the legislature, is retiring due to corruption problems. His replacement could be Democrat Rep. Rod Blagojevich, whose once-comfortable lead over state Attorney General Jim Ryan has shrunk.

Jim Ryan appears to still be having trouble overcoming voter confusion between himself and George Ryan. Illinois voters are notoriously dopey about names. In one notorious primary, the mainstream Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor lost to a LaRouchite named John Adams.

The NRA grades both of the gubernatorial candidates too high. Jim Ryan gets a B+, despite his unwillingness to support progressive gun reforms, such as handgun carry licensing, or repeal of Chicago's gun prohibition. Blagojevich's F rating is likewise too high, and a new letter should have been invented for him. As a state legislator, he introduced a bill to raise the fee for a Firearm Owners Identification card (FOID) from $5 to $500. He said "I don't understand" why citizens care about the right to own a firearm. As a U.S. representative, he has worked hard to destroy what he doesn't understand, leading the charge against gun shows, small handguns, big rifles, and every other potential target of prohibition. He apparently views gun owners the way South Carolina Senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman viewed black people: a contemptible class of criminals and would-be-criminals, whose only utility is as a target of political demagoguery.

Iowa: Democrat Tom Vilsack (F) is in the lead for second term against lawyer Doug Gross (A).

Kansas: Republican Governor Bill Graves signed legislation to stop abusive municipal lawsuits, but vetoed concealed handgun reform. Republican State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger (A+) would be a huge step forward, but he's in a very tough race with Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius (F).

Maine: Independent Governor Angus S. King is out because of term limits. Republican State Rep. Peter Cianchette (A) is way behind State Rep. John Baldacci (D).

Maryland: Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (F) has already been running the state's gun policies, under the ethically troubled governorship of Parris Glendening. Townsend/Glendening have made Maryland's gun laws significantly more oppressive, with harmful results to public safety. Their so-called ballistic "fingerprinting" system has incurred huge costs, and not solved a single crime. While the expensive "fingerprinting" system was being created, Maryland stopped running background checks on gun buyers, due to lack of money.

Sales of many models of handguns have been halted, due to the expense of the failed ballistic system, or to the administration's refusal to appointment members to the Handgun Roster Board, thereby ensuring that the Board (which must approve new models of handguns sold in Maryland) rarely has a quorum.

Despite promising not to politicize the Maryland sniper, Mrs. Townsend did so, and began running antigun commercials. These commercials were exceeded in their loathsomeness, however, by the Brady Campaign's use of Columbine High School footage in its commercials.

Townsend's opponent, Rep. Bob Ehrlich (B) voted for the Brady Bill, but against various gun-ban proposals. The Brady Campaign has denounced him as an "extremist," a disingenuous assault that even the Washington Post found implausible.

If Ehrlich can hold onto his small lead, it would be a big triumph for civil liberties and honest campaigning.

Massachusetts: Republican Mitt Romney (B) is in a tight race with State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien (B). As a member of the Massachusetts legislature, O'Brien had a good record on gun issues, although she expressed some support for gun control during the gubernatorial primary.

Michigan: Outgoing Governor John Engler signed concealed handgun licensing reform, albeit after insisting on extensive restrictions on where licensed guns can be carried. Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus (A) is behind, but still has a chance, against Attorney General Jennifer Granholm (F).

Granholm was the luncheon speaker at Wayne State University symposium on guns a few years ago. (John Lott and I were the two pro-rights speakers on the day's panels.) Granholm's speech made it clear that she knows very little about guns and that she believes every clichι invented by the gun-prohibition lobby. Even so, she has not proposed repealing Michigan's concealed handgun law, which is working quite well, despite the hysterical predications made by antigun advocates before the bill was enacted.

Minnesota: Jesse Ventura was erratic in many ways, but kept his promise to support concealed handgun-licensing reform. Reform was blocked by a single vote in the state senate, due to the efforts of DFL State Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe (F). Moe's current advertising touts his antigun credentials.

Moe is in a close three-way race with Republican House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty (A) and Independence party (former Democrat) Rep. Tim Penny (F). As a U.S. representative, Penny supported Second Amendment rights until 1994, when he cast the decisive vote in favor of the Clinton "assault weapon" ban. He explained that the ban wouldn't do any good, but that people were afraid, and so he felt a need to do something.

After leaving Congress, he wrote a book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies in Politics(1998) that criticized gun control (and cited me!). Currently, he's trying to waffle on concealed-handgun reform. Penny's overall record really is much better than Moe's, but Pawlenty is clearly the only real choice for advocates of a fair system of licensing for handgun carry.

Nebraska: Republican Gov. Mike Johanns (A+) is up against the superbly named Stormy Dean (A). Nebraska's obstacle to handgun carrying reform isn't the governor, but breaking a filibuster in the unicameral legislature, led the Omaha State Senator Ernie Chambers.

Nevada: Governor Kenny Guinn (A) is a tax-and-spend Republican. He has a huge lead over State Sen. Joe Neal (F). Neal may be in danger of finishing behind "none of the above."

New Hampshire: With incumbent Jeanne Shaheen leaving office in search of the U.S. Senate, Republican Craig Benson (A) has opened up a big lead over Mark Fernald (F). Given Shaheen's record, New Hampshire looks to be a solid gain the Second Amendment.

New Mexico: Democrat Bill Richardson was a strong advocate of gun rights in 1989 — when he inserted into the Congressional Record a monograph I wrote about the foolishness of "assault weapon" prohibition. By as an assistant House whip during the Clinton years, he helped push the "assault weapon" ban over the top. Both Richardson and Republican opponent John Sanchez get an A- from the NRA, and Richardson has a wide lead.

New York: Governor George Pataki (F) fought for and won a comprehensive antigun bill in 2000. Although New York has wasted millions of dollars on ballistic "fingerprinting," not a single crime has been solved as a result. Comptroller Carl McCall did not answer the NRA questionnaire, but he made it clear that he didn't like guns when he ran against NYU professor Herb London in 1994. Third-party billionaire Thomas Golisano (A) has a chance to surpass McCall.

Ohio: Incumbent Republican Bob Taft (B+) has little political resemblance to his famous ancestor. This generation's Bob Taft fought a very hard but unsuccessful campaign to force gun owners to keep their guns locked up (and thereby to make working conditions safe for burglars). Although he signed a good bill to prevent abusive antigun lawsuits, he is the main obstacle to concealed handgun licensing reform. He has a wide lead over a former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, who did not answer the NRA questionnaire.

Oklahoma: Republican Frank Keating is term-limited. In marked contrast to Bill Owens of Colorado, Keating did not see a horrible mass murder in his state as a reason to turn into a gun-control advocate. Just a few weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing, Keating signed concealed-carry legislation. Owens, however, ordered the Colorado senate Republican leadership to ensure that concealed-carry legislation did not reach his desk in 2000, the year after Columbine. (Now, however, Owens has reverted to his 1998 position of favoring concealed carry.)

Former Seattle Seahawk wide receiver and former U.S. Rep. Steve Largent (A+) has a small lead over Democratic State Sen. Brad Henry (A).

Oregon: Term-limited Democrat John Kitzhaber was a strong antigun activist. Former Democratic State Supreme Court Justice Ted Kulongoski (C+) has a not insurmountable lead over former State Rep. Kevin Mannix (A). Either would be an improvement over Kitzhaber, but Mannix much more so.

Pennsylvania: Attorney General Mike Fisher (A) and former Philadelphia Democratic Mayor Ed Rendell (F) are fighting for this open seat. Rendell is the original political advocate of filing malicious antigun lawsuits to bankrupt gun companies, although his administration never actually filed a suit. Gun-prohibition groups are contributing heavily to Rendell, as they should. Rendell currently claims not to be antigun but this is lie. John Lott recounts a 1999 debate in Chicago. After the debate, Lott heard Rendell tell a Violence Policy Center employee, "I just can't say publicly what we want to do. We have to take these things slowly."

In response to a question from Lott, Rendell insisted that defensive gun use never occurred.

Rendell has a wide lead over Fisher, as Pennsylvanians tend alternate governorships between the parties.

Rhode Island: Antigun Republican Lincoln Almond is out because of term limits. Democrat Myrth York (F) has won the Democratic nomination for a third time, but Republican businessman Ronald Carcieri (B+) is within striking distance.

South Carolina: Democratic Governor Jim Hodges (A+) is in a close race with former Rep. Mark Sanford (A).

South Dakota: In this open seat, former State Sen. Mike Rounds (A+) has the lead over Democrat Jim Abbott (B), president of the University of South Dakota

Tennessee: Republican Governor Don Sundquist is term-limited, much to the relief of taxpayers who had to resist his fervid efforts — in violation of his own campaign promises — to impose a state income tax. There next governor will be A rated by the NRA, whether it's Republican Rep. Van Hilleary (R) or Phil Bredesen, the former mayor of Nashville.

Texas: Lt. Governor Rick Perry (A) succeeded George Bush as governor. He appears to have developed a comfortable lead over Tony Sanchez (A). With a rising Hispanic vote, Texas isn't going to be a solid Republican state in the future. Yet as Tony Sanchez's A rating testifies, Hispanic power isn't necessarily inconsistent with traditional Texan support for gun rights.

Vermont: Outgoing Democratic Governor Howard Dean was very good on guns, and may be the best choice in the 2004 presidential primaries for Democrats who support the Second Amendment. Democratic Lt. Gov. Douglas Racine (C) would not be as good, and he has a small lead over State Treasurer Jim Douglas (A). If no candidate cracks 50 percent (and independent candidates have 11 percent currently), the Vermont House (almost certain to be Republican) will choose the governor.

Wisconsin: Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum (A) became Governor when Tommy Thompson became secretary of health and human services McCallum trails Attorney General Jim Doyle (F). Part of the problem is Ed Thompson, Tommy's brother, who is running under the Libertarian banner. Like Minnesota, Wisconsin is very close to enacting concealed handgun reform, but not if gun owners waste their votes.

Wyoming: Former Republican House Speaker Eli Bebout (A+) faces former U.S. Attorney Dave Freudenthal (A-). Bebout has the lead, but the race isn't over.

Summary: Gun owners are sure to gain in Alaska, Massachusetts, and Oregon, although the magnitude of the gain in the Pacific states is variable. They have good opportunity for progress in Hawaii, Maryland, and New Hampshire, plus a potential upsets in California and Rhode Island. Second Amendment rights face possible losses in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin, and terrible losses in Pennsylvania and Illinois, with the latter two governorships going to extreme prohibitionists. Kansas will either get much better or much worse.

THE HOUSE

Pundits agree that the House of Representatives will stay narrowly Republican, mostly because of high-tech gerrymandering that creates safe seats for both parties. But there a still dozens of races where the race is a toss-up, or the underdog could pull off an upset. Here's a rundown of every such race — plus a few others — where there's a notable difference between the candidates on Second Amendment issues. For each candidate, I report their grades, first from the NRA's Political Victory Fund, and then Gun Owners of America. GOA grades much stricter. The grade of "?" or "NR" means the candidate did not respond to the questionnaire from the group.

Alabama 3d district: This open seat was created was Republican Bob Riley left to run for Governor. Republican Mike Rogers (A, A) has a proven record as minority leader in the statehouse. Business consultant Joe Turnham (B, F) ran for the seat in 1998, too.

Arizona 1: New district. Republican businessman Rick Renzi (A, A) versus Democratic businessman George Cordova (D, F).

California 18: Incumbent Gary Condit was defeated in the primary by Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza (D, C). He faces Republican State Senator Dick Monteith (A, A), on of the California legislature's leading opponents of gun prohibition. The district is blue-collar Democrat, and Monteith has a slight lead in the polls. This is a top priority race for the Brady Campaign, which has named Monteith one its "Dangerous Dozen."

Colorado 4: In this open seat created by Bob Schaffer's adherence to this term-limits pledge, Republican State Senator Marilyn Musgrave (A, A+) faces outgoing Senate President Stan Matsunaka (C, F). Musgrave is a close ally of GOA, and sometimes opposes NRA compromises on gun laws. Matsunaka voted antigun whenever it mattered, and always assigned gun bills to the most committees. But when he decided to run for the U.S. House from the farm-oriented fourth district, he made a half-hearted effort to help pass a bill for concealed-handgun-carry licensing.

Musgrave appears to have a good lead here.

Colorado 7: The new district is a half-ring of the north Denver suburbs. Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Bob Beauprez (A, C-) supported the 2000 state ballot initiative to put special restrictions on gun shows, but has otherwise favored the Second Amendment. Former Senate Minority Leader Mike Feeley's (F, F) current ad rails about "cop-killer bullets" — a hoax issue which was settled by 1986 federal legislation.

Connecticut 2: Republican Rob Simmons (A, B) scored an upset in 2000 to defeat incumbent Sam Gjedenson in this Democratic district. This time, Simmons is challenged by 1998 Lt. Gov. candidate Joe Courtney (F, NR).

Florida 5: Democrat incumbent Karen Thurman (A-, D) was a full-tilt defender of government abuse at the 1995 House Waco hearings, but she has otherwise been good on the gun issue. State Senator Ginny Brown-Waite (A, A) is also good, without the Waco taint.

Florida 7: Incumbent John Mica (A+, B) has the lead over Democrat Wayne Hogan (?, NR).

Florida 24: Florida Speaker of the House Tom Feeney (A, B), granted a chance to run for Congress by the addition of two new district for Florida, faces attorney Harry Jacobs (?, NR).

Georgia 4: Denise Majette (?, NR) defeated anti-Semite Cynthia McKinney in the primary. Although she did not answer the gun-group questionnaires, she is said to be supportive of the Second Amendment. In this very Democratic district, her Republican opponent is Cynthia Van Auken (B, C).

Georgia 12: This new Augusta/Athens seat is rated a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. Computer-systems professor Max Burns (A, A) is leading Democratic businessman Charles "Champ" Walker (?, NR).

Indiana 2: In an open seat (around South Bend) created by Democrat Tim Roemer's retirement, former Democratic Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson (D, D) is trying a comeback. When first elected in a 1989 special election, she made pro-gun overtures, at time when President George H. W. Bush was betraying his campaign promises and inflaming hysteria over "assault weapons." Her subsequent record, though was disappointing. Chris Chocola (A, A) was the 2000 Republican nominee.

Indiana 7: Indianapolis Rep. Julia Carson (F, F-) is one of the hardest-Left representatives in a non-coastal state. Republican Brose McVey (A, B) is close, but a Libertarian is siphoning off votes.

Iowa 1: In this Democratic district, Republican Incumbent Jim Nussle (A, C) faces Bettendorf Mayor Ann Hutchinson (? NR), who switched parties to challenge Nussle.

Iowa 4: Republican incumbent Rob Latham's (A C) district got much more Democratic after redistricting. John Norris (?, NR) served as Iowa Director of the 1988 Jesse Jackson campaign. Jackson came in a respectable fourth, behind neighboring Congressmen Paul Simon and Richard Gephardt, and the eventual nominee, Michael Dukakis. Bruce Babbitt had staked almost everything on Iowa, and Jackson's showing finished off the Babbitt campaign.

Kansas 3: Incumbent Democrat Dennis Moore (F, F) is amazingly for this district. Airline pilot Adam Taff (A, NR) is one several congressional candidates who decided to run because of September 11. Moore's slim lead is within the margin of error.

Kentucky 3: Moderate Republican Anne Northup (B, C-) usually has tough races in this Louisville district. Democrat Jack Conway (?, NR) portrays himself as a moderate, and he served as an aide to pro-gun Governor Paul Patton. But his refusal to answer questionnaires raises doubts.

Maryland 2: Incumbent Republican Robert Ehrlich running for governor — thanks in part to redistricting which made the electorate much more Democratic. Former Congresswoman Helen Bentley (B+, C) is trailing against Democratic Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger (?, NR).

Michigan 9: Incumbent Republican Joe Knollenberg (A, A-) appears to be fending off a challenge from lawyer David Fink (F, NR), in a district that has become much more Democratic.

Michigan 10: In an open seat created by David Bonior's unsuccessful campaign for governor, Republican Secretary of State Candice Miller (A, A) is leading Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga (D, NR)

Michigan 11: Republican State Senator Thaddeus McCotter (A, A) vies for this new Wayne County seat against Kevin Kelly (F, NR), supervisor of Redford Township. The race appears to be dead-even.

Minnesota 2: Democratic Rep. Bill Luther (F, F-) nearly lost to ex-Marine John Kline (A, A) in 2000, and beat Kline by a wider margin in 1998. The two are going at it again. The district is slightly more Republican than before, but an anti-tax third-party candidate may siphon off enough votes to make a difference.

New Hampshire 1: This seat became open when John Sununu ran for Senate against Bob Smith. The Sununu bid may cost the Republicans the Senate seat, and the House seat is likewise in jeopardy. In any case, the Sununu/Shaheen Senate winner won't be as pro-gun as Smith was, and the new Representative won't be a pro-gun as Sununu was. Republican State Rep. Jeb Bradley (B, C-) faces State Rep. Martha Fuller Clark (F, F).

New Jersey 5: With strong support from the Club for Growth, State Assemblyman Scott Garrett (A, A) beat antigun, pro-tax incumbent Marge Roukema in the primary for this Bergen County district. She is refusing to support him in the general election. Anne Sumers (F, F) is running perhaps the vilest ad created by a candidate in this congressional election cycle, featuring a picture of John Allen Muhammad, and criticizing Garrett's vote to let licensed, trained citizens carry handguns for protection — as if that had anything to do with a murderer using a rifle. Polls show Sumers within striking distance. The race is priority for the Brady Campaign, which isn't used to pro-rights congressmen from New Jersey.

New Mexico 1: Republican Heather Wilson (A, B-) never has it easy in his Albuquerque district. State Senate President Richard Romero (F, F) was a fierce opponent of concealed-handgun licensing. Wilson leads by a single point.

North Carolina 8: Republican incumbent Robin Hayes (A, A-) now has a Democratic-leaning district including much of Charlotte. He's challenged by lawyer Chris Kouri (?, NR).

North Dakota at-large: No state with high percentage of gun owners has such a uniformly congressional delegation as North Dakota. Incumbent Democrat Earl Pomeroy (F, F) Tax Commissioner Rick Clayburgh (A, A-).

Ohio 3: Democrat Rep. Tony Hall accepted President Bush's appointment to a U.N. post. His chief of staff Richard Carne (F, NR) faces former Dayton Mayor Michael Turner (B, NR).

Oklahoma 4: J.C. Watts' retirement sets up a match between Republican political consultant Tom Cole (A, B) and ex-Senate Majority Leader Darryl Roberts (D, NR).

Pennsylvania 6: This new district in suburban Philadelphia was created for Republican State Senator Jim Gerlach (A, NR). He's opposed by Dan Wofford (F, NR), son of former Senator Harris Wofford, the man who started a national political panic over the need to socialize health care, by winning a special election during the first Bush presidency.

Pennsylvania 15: Incumbent Republican Pat Toomey (A, A-) heads for a rematch with United Steelworkers official Ed O'Brien (F, NR). Toomey has a term-limits pledge that activates in 2004, perhaps setting him for a Senate run.

Pennsylvania 18: Incumbent Democrat Frank Mascara moved to an adjacent district. The redrawn district was built for State Senator and child psychologist Tim Murphy (A, NR), who faces the 2000 Democratic candidate Jack Machek (?, NR), tax collector for the Nowin School District. Murphy has a big lead, suggesting that voters are less mistrustful of psychologists than of taxmen.

Utah 1: With the retirement of James Hansen, Republican House Speaker Rob Bishop (A, A) vies with advertising executive Dave Thomas (?, C). in a district made more Democratic by the addition of west Salt Lake City. Bishop, formerly chair of the state party, is a strongly committed Second Amendment activist.

Utah 2: In the rest of Salt Lake City, incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson (B+, C) has been better on guns that his previous record would have suggested, perhaps because redistricting added over a dozen rural counties. Challenger John Swallow (A, A), a State Representative, would likely be superior, though. Polls show both Utah races are very close.

SENATE

Finally, here's your Second Amendment guide to the U.S. Senate elections. For each candidate, I supply two grades: The first grade is from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund; the second grade is from Gun Owners of America, which usually grades on a much sterner curve than the NRA. If the grade is "?" or "NR," that means that the candidate did not respond to the group's questionnaire. NRA rarely rates third-party candidates, while GOA always does.

Alabama: Incumbent Republican Jeff Sessions (A+, C) is expected to easily defeat State Auditor Susan Parker (?, NR).

Alaska: Republican Ted Stevens (A+, D) is almost certain to win a sixth term by a very large margin, defeating lawyer Frank Vondersaar (?, NR). The three third-party candidates — Green, Libertarian, and American Independent — all received A ratings from GOA.

Arkansas: A few years ago, first-term Republican Tim Hutchinson (A, B) dumped his wife of 29 years to marry a former staffer. Primarily for that reason, Hutchinson is in a very tight — but winnable — fight against Attorney General Mark Pryor (F, NR). Pryor's father, David Pryor, held the Senate seat for three terms before Hutchinson, and was a consistent antigun vote.

Colorado: Six years ago, Republican Wayne Allard (A, B) beat lawyer Tom Strickland (F, NR). Then, Strickland campaigned as a supporter of the Clinton-Gore-Reno program. This time around, he's claiming that he opposes all new gun controls, except for the McCain-Lieberman gun show bill (which would allow federal regulators to abolish gun shows). Only the most gullible gun owners believe Strickland, and he continues to receive campaign contributions from gun prohibition organizations.

In 1999-2001, he served as U.S. Attorney for Colorado under the Clinton administration. His tenure was marked by an extremely abusive prosecution of a pawn shop run by local pro-gun activist Greg Golyansky and his brother and cousin. Strickland brought a 37-count felony indictment — but the case was settled on October 29, 2002, with a plea to a two paperwork violations. The judge's view of the merits of the case is illustrated by the sentence imposed on Golyansky: one day of probation.

The previous United States Attorney (Clinton appointee Henry Solano) had declined to prosecute the Golyansky case. Resistance to the case from the career attorneys in Colorado office was apparently strong enough so that Strickland had to use outsiders to handle the case, including an attorney hired from the powerhouse lobbying firm where Strickland had formerly worked.

The prosecutors unlawfully withheld information showing that their key witness suffered from severe mental illness. The federal district court and a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed that Strickland's office had violated the trial court's explicit orders so egregiously that sanctions should be imposed. United States v. Golyansky, 291 F.3d 1245 (10th Cir., 2002).

I contacted the Strickland campaign for their views on the Golyansky case and submitted a written set of questions by e-mail. The campaign has not responded to those questions.

Polls show the Allard-Strickland race is very tight.

Delaware: Democrat Joseph Biden (F, F) is running for a sixth term, and faces his 1996 opponent Ray Clatworthy (A, NR). Early in his Senate career, Biden postured as a social moderate, but when he became chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he turned the committee into a vehicle for repressive legislation on a wide spectrum of Bill of Rights issues; gun restrictions, expansion of computer and electronic surveillance, and anti-federalism were special objects of attention.

Georgia: Democrat Max Cleland (D, F) is running for a second term against U.S. Saxby Chambliss (A+, A). Cleland very occasionally casts a pro-gun vote, but his overall voting record is far out of step with Georgia's support for Second Amendment rights. This is one of the key swing races.

Idaho: Incumbent Republican Larry Craig (A+, B) serves on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. But his opponent Alan Blinken (F, NR) argues that Craig isn't sufficiently pro-gun. One of his commercials shows Blinken cleaning his shotgun. Blinken says that Craig "talks about the rights of gun owners, but he hasn't even had a hunting license in Idaho in years." Blinken promises: "I came to Idaho to hunt and fish... I won't just talk about our way of life. I live it, and I'll fight for it." But given Blinken's miserable rating from the NRA, it's doubtful that Second Amendment supporters will desert the Craig, who really does fight for gun rights.

Illinois: Democrat Richard Durbin (F, F) won his first term promising to be an energetic proponent of gun restrictions, and he has kept his promise. His opponent, State Rep. Jim Durkin (?, D), is not much better.

Iowa: Three-term incumbent Democrat Tom Harkin (F, F) has supported handgun prohibition, although he now claims not to. He is opposed by U.S. Rep. Greg Ganske (C, F), who usually voted against gun owners in the House.

Kansas: Republican Pat Roberts (A, C) faces no Democratic opposition in his bid for a second term. Libertarian Steven Rosile was given an A by GOA.

Kentucky: Republican Mitch McConnell (A, C) not only has a good record on the Second Amendment, he worked with the ACLU as the leading First Amendment opponent of the McCain-Feingold campaign speech restrictions. He is opposed, not especially effectively, by Lois Weinberg (?, NR), the daughter of a former governor.

Louisiana: The election system in this state is unusual, and not just for the possible fraud which might have won Democrat Mary Landrieu (C-, F) her 1996 election. In the November election, Landrieu faces one Democrat, four Republicans, two independents, and a Libertarian. Landrieu, currently at about 45 percent in the polls, needs to crack 50 percent to avoid a December run-off. Among her opponents, the pro-gun candidates are three of the four Republicans — U.S. Rep. John Cooksey (A, B), State Rep. Tony Perkins (A, A), and Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell (A, NR) — and the Libertarian Gary Robbins (GOA: A).

Maine: First-term Republican Susan Collins (B+, D) was expected to have a hard race, but she now has a very wide lead over Democrat Chellie Pingree (F, F).

Massachusetts: In the 2000 election, the self-destructive Massachusetts Republican party worked to undermine the party's nominee Jack Robinson. The party officials decided that since Robinson had a conviction for drunk driving, the party would be better off not putting up any candidate against Ted Kennedy (!). This time around, the Republican surrender monkeys get their wish, and John Kerry (F, F) will win his fourth term with no Republican on the ballot. Not since the founding of the Republican party have Massachusetts Republicans failed to field a U.S. Senate candidate.

Libertarian Michael Cloud gets an A from GOA.

Michigan: Democrat Carl Levin (F, F) very occasionally casts a pro-gun vote, but never when it matters. He is expected to handily defeat State Rep. Andrew Raczkowski (A, A).

Minnesota: Former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman (A, B) probably cost himself the governorship in 1998 by his waffling on concealed carry. He would, however, be vastly better for Second Amendment rights than ex-Vice President Walter Mondale (F).

Mississippi: Republican Thad Cochran (A, D) faces no Democratic opposition, after his opponent dropped out in August due to poor health. GOA have his independent opponent an A.

Missouri: Jean Carnahan (F, F) faces the electorate for the first time since being appointed to replace her deceased husband Mel Carnahan. As Governor, Mr. Carnahan was a staunch opponent of gun rights, and worked very hard to defeat a referendum on licensed carrying of handguns — despite promising the NRA that he would not get heavily involved in the issue. In the Senate, Mrs. Carnahan continues to work against gun rights — although she has been attempting to obscure the fact by pointing out she's a fine shotgun shooter, and her opponent Jim Talent (A, B) is not. The conjunction of Mrs. Carnahan's genuine shotgun skills and her genuine hostility handgun ownership is, unfortunately, not uncommon among certain segments of the shot gunning community. Astute gun owners recognize that — as England and Australia have demonstrated — destruction of the right to own a handgun is a prelude to the confiscation of sporting shotguns.

Montana: Democrat Max Baucus (B, F) has usually voted pro-gun, but with some very significant exceptions during the Clinton years. His opponent, State Senator Mike Taylor (A, A) was an outstanding Second Amendment leader in the state legislature. Baucus has been running TV commercials calling himself a "strong supporter of the Second Amendment" and reminiscing, "One of my best memories is when my dad gave me my first gun and taught me the responsibility that goes along with it."

Nebraska: First-term Republican Chuck Hagel (A, C) has a wide lead over Charles Matulka (A, B), a construction worker whose strong support of gun rights reflects the views of many Democratic tradesmen.

New Hampshire: Senator Bob Smith was the pre-eminent gun-rights advocate in the Senate, and lead sponsor of legislation to allow airline pilots to be armed. At the urging of the White House, Rep. John E. Sununu (A, B) challenged Smith in the primary and defeated him. Should Sununu win the election, he will be a reliable pro-gun vote, but he has made it clear that he won't be a leader on the issue like Smith was. While the White House expected Sununu to cruise in the general election, his arrogant personality (perhaps inherited from his father) contrasts markedly with likeable Governor Jeanne Shaheen (F, NR), and the race is a toss-up.

New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg (F, F-) and Robert Torricelli didn't like each other, but they share a common contempt of the Second Amendment and New Jersey election statutes. Lautenberg is currently touting his authorship of the "Lautenberg Amendment," a 1994 provision in the Clinton crime bill which made it illegal for anyone with a domestic violence misdemeanor — no matter how far in the past — to even a hold a gun in his or her hands. Lautenberg's amendment turned an offense for which someone might have served a month of probation in 1967 into a retroactive lifetime ban on the exercise of a civil right. Lautenberg apparently had no concerns that someone who pleaded guilty in 1967 because he couldn't afford a lawyer — and the District Attorney was offering a plea bargain with no jail time and no fine — would be prohibited from gun ownership three decades later, as a completely unforeseeable consequence of the plea bargain.

The Lautenberg Amendment also over-rode state laws about gun possession by misdemeanants, which were far more nuanced and diverse than the Lautenberg lifetime prohibition.

Lautenberg's disdain for the Second Amendment is matched by his contempt for the Tenth Amendment. He introduced legislation to overturn state laws that allow trained adults who pass a background check to carry a handgun for lawful protection.

Republican Doug Forrester (?, NR) has said that we don't need more gun laws, and accurately criticized the "assault weapon" legislation (bans on guns based on cosmetics) as a mean-spirited persecution, having no real connection to public safety.

The national gun-prohibition groups are investing very heavily in the campaign against Forrester, but he's still within range of pulling an upset. Bill Bradley, it should be remembered, barely squeaked into his final Senate term, despite pre-election polls showing he had a substantial lead.

New Mexico: Since first being elected in 1972, Republican Pete Domenici (A, D) has focused on fiscal issues, but his voting record on gun rights has been mostly good. He has a very wide lead over Gloria Tristani (?, NR), a former commissioner of Federal Communications Commission, an organization whose bureaucratic torpor is notable even by Washington standards.

North Carolina: Elizabeth Dole's husband Robert Dole spent his Senate career and his Presidential primary campaigns as a staunch advocate of gun rights. Then during the 1996 general election, he announced his support of the "assault weapon" ban that he had fought against for so many years in the Senate. When running for president in 1999, Mrs. Dole attempted to distinguish herself from the Republican field by not only supporting prohibition of so-called "assault weapons," but even by opposing state laws which allow licensed, trained adults who pass a background check to carry a handgun for lawful protection.

Now, running for senator from North Carolina, Mrs. Dole (A, D) claims to have changed her mind, and to oppose the antigun laws that were her distinguishing platform items in 1999. Her opponent Erskine Bowles (D, F) served as chief of staff for the most criminal administration in American history. Dole is slightly ahead, but Bowles is within upset range. In any case, gun owners will suffer a major loss from the retirement of Senator Jesse Helms, whose support of gun rights stemmed from conviction rather than focus groups.

Oklahoma: Republican James Inhofe is one of only two incumbent senators seeking reelection to receive an A from Gun Owners of America. (The other is Wyoming's Mike Enzi.) Inhofe gets an A+ from the NRA. His opponent is former Governor David Walters (D, NR), and the race does not look close.

Oregon: Having lost narrowly in 1994, and won narrowly in 1996, Republican Gordon Smith (B, D) looks safe from Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (F, NR). Smith isn't perfect, but he's pretty good for a senator from the Left Coast.

Rhode Island: Democrat Jack Reed (F, F) used his first term to establish himself as a vanguard Senator for the movement. While pragmatic gun controllers coalesced around the McCain-Lieberman gun-show bill, the hard core preferred Reed's even more severe proposal. He should easily turn back a challenge from Robert Tingle (C, C), a casino pit boss who is relatively pro-gun, by Rhode Island statewide candidate standards

South Carolina: Strom Thurmond dishonored himself and the United States Senate in his final term, holding office long after he had lost the mental and physical ability to perform his duties. As a senator, Thurmond had an imperfect record on guns — teaming up with Howard Metzenbaum in the 1980s to lead a push for "plastic gun" legislation that would have banned many guns made from 100% metal. Under the first Bush administration, Thurmond took the lead in supporting administration gun control proposals, whereas senators such as Orrin Hatch refused to go along.

Republican Rep. Lindsey Graham (A, B) is vying with Alex Sanders (?, NR), the former president of the College of Charleston. Sanders is a colorful Southern raconteur, and an NRA member who says that current gun laws are sufficient, and that he enjoys hunting with his grandfather's antique Civil War rifle. On other hand, his failure to answer the NRA and GOA questionnaires raises doubts, whereas Graham has a proven record in Congress, and has received the NRA's endorsement.

Should Graham prove the pundits right by winning, the change from Thurmond to Graham would be a notable gain for gun rights — less in formal votes than in behind-the-scenes negotiations.

South Dakota: First-term Democrat Tim Johnson (C+, F) had a fine record on gun issues when he served in the House, but usually switched to the other side in the Senate. Challenger John Thune (A, B) is one of the best shots for a pro-rights pick up.

Tennessee: Former education secretary, governor, and plaid presidential candidate Lamar Alexander (A, C) is fighting for an open seat against Rep. Bob Clement (B, D). Neither would be quite as good as retiring Senator Fred Thompson, but both candidates would vote for gun rights most of the time.

Texas: The retirement of Senator Phil Gramm deprives gun owners of one of their most effective Senate champions. The former mayor of Dallas, Democrat Ron Kirk (?, NR) considers himself (D) pro-business since he distributed vast amounts of corporate welfare. Attorney General John Cornyn (A, NR) has a slender lead in the polls.

Virginia: Four-term incumbent John Warner (D, F) sometimes claims to support Second Amendment rights, but usually doesn't. As in 1990, Virginia Democrats aren't even bothering to field a candidate. Independent candidate Jacob Hornberger is a very bright and articulate libertarian, from the Future of Freedom Foundation, who certainly deserves his A from GOA The other independent candidate is a follower of Lyndon LaRouche.

West Virginia: Incumbent Democrat Jay Rockefeller (F, F) is expected to defeat former State Senator Jay Wolfe (A, NR). As in North Dakota, the voters of West Virginia are over-fond of seniority, and therefore allow themselves to be represented by a Senate delegation that almost always votes against West Virginia values on gun rights.

Wyoming: Senator Mike Enzi (A+, A) should cruise to an easy win over Democrat Joyce Jansa Corcoran (D-, NR).

Summary: Any result in South Carolina is an improvement for gun owners, but especially a Graham win. Conversely, North Carolina is a guaranteed decline for gun owners, but more so if Bowles wins. Gun owners have the realistic potential of gaining ground in Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, and of losing seats in Arkansas, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Texas.

— Dave Kopel is a columnist for NRO. On election night, he'll be providing Colorado and national election commentary on KBDI-TV Channel 12 in Denver, simulcast on the web on KNRC radio, 1510 AM, from 8-10 p.m. Mountain Time, and will also appear on a webcast from KCNC-TV, Channel 4 in Denver, from 7-7:30.   

 

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