By Dave Kopel
National Review Online. November 8, 2006
The Second Amendment has emerged from the biggest Democratic victory since 1974 with relatively little damage. One reason is that in races all over the country, Democrats returned to their Jefferson-Jackson roots by running candidates who trust the people to bear arms.
I do not disagree that the Democratic gains in Congress will, on the whole, be harmful for the economy, and extremely dangerous for the war against Islamofascism.
Nevertheless, the class of pro-gun Democrats who will be joining the House and the Senate includes some who will eventually become party leaders, and who will help move the Democratic party back towards its traditional position of respect for the civil liberties of the American people. A very constructive development, in the long run.
The information below is based on the results as of early Wednesday morning. The ratings cited below are from the National Rifle Association.
Governors: In a year in which Democrats gained a half-dozen governorships, only one pro-gun incumbent governor was defeated. Pro-gun Republican incumbents who repelled anti-gun challenges included Schwarzenegger (Calif.), Carcieri (R.I.), and Douglas (Vt.). After trailing for months, Tim Pawlenty won a very close re-election in Minnesota, while Jim Gibbons survived a last-minute scare in Nevada.
Democrats Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan were not considered friendly to the Second Amendment when they were elected, but they helped ensure their re-election by generally supporting Second Amendment rights during their first terms. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, Brad Henry of Oklahoma, and Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming won their first terms by promising to protect Second Amendment rights, and they won easy re-election in part because they kept their promises.
In open seats, winners were pro-gun Democrat Culver (Iowa), and pro-gun Republicans Palin (Alaska), Crist (Fla.), and Otter (Idaho). All of the Republicans defeated candidates with weaker records on the Second Amendment.
Second Amendment activists did not achieve their goals of unseating Jim Doyle (Wisconsin) or Ted Kulongoski (Ore.).
In Maryland, incumbent Governor Bob Ehrlich was rhetorically pro-gun, but did very little to help gun owners. He was defeated by the “F”-rated Martin O’Malley. Next year, the gun-prohibition lobby in Maryland will make a major push to ban self-loading firearms.
The other major Second Amendment loss was in Colorado, where strongly anti-gun Democrat Bill Ritter will replace retiring Governor Bill Owens. In addition, moderately anti-gun George Pataki of New York will be replaced by vehemently anti-gun Democrat Elliot Spitzer.
Retiring anti-gun Republican Governor Bob Taft of Ohio will give way to solidly pro-gun Democrat Ted Strickland. Preliminary results suggest that the Ohio legislature still has a pro-gun majority, so prospects for constructive reform of Ohio laws — particularly pre-emption of local gun bans — appear good.
Net gubernatorial results: -1.5.
Losses: Colorado, Maryland, and half of one in New York.
Senate: With McCaskill taking Talent’s seat, we lose one seat for Second Amendment rights. In Vermont, Bernie Sander (“C-” rating) will take the place of retiring Jim Jeffords (“B” rated in his last election, but performed worse in his final term), so let’s call that a wash. In all other states, incumbents won, or were replaced by candidates who had nearly identical ratings on gun issues.
Net Senate results: -1.
Of the new pro-gun Democrats, Casey does not appear very deep intellectually, but Webb may emerge as an articulate, well-informed spokesman for America’s traditional culture of gun ownership. Jon Tester of Montana has Second Amendment views that are consistent with his state’s.
Assuming that Tester and Webb win, Majority Leader Reid will be one of a half-dozen generally pro-gun Democrats, along with Baucus, Ben Nelson, and Casey. The number of Democratic Senators who will vote against guns under all circumstances appears to be less then 20 (based on the number who voted in favor of allowing federal funds to be spent on gun confiscation during emergencies, even when the confiscation is not authorized by any law).
House: Pro-gun losses were about half the size of Republican losses — which is another way of saying that many of the Democrats who made the 2006 takeover possible are pro-gun. These include FL 16 (Mahoney), Indiana (Donnelly, Ellsworth, Hill), MN 1 (Walz), NC 11 (Shuler), Ohio (Wilson, Space), PA 4 (Altmire), TX 22 (Lampson), and VT (Welch).
Party control changed in the following races where pro-gun candidates were defeated by gun-control supporters: AZ 5 (Hayworth), CA 11 (Pombo), CO 7 (open), CT 2 (Simmons), IA 1 (open), KS 2 (Ryun), KY 3 (Northrup), NH (Shea, Bass), PA (Weldon, Fitzpatrick, Sherwood), NY 20 (Sweeney), WI 8 (open).
Net House results: -14, which would drop to -15 if Reichert (WA 8) loses his lead.
Several other districts had changes that were only a matter of degree: In NY 24 (open) an “F” rated Democrat took the seat of retiring “D+” rated Sherwood Boehlert. In FL 16, Shaw (“C+” rated) was replaced by an “F” challenger. The Illinois seat of retiring, and inconsistent, Henry Hyde was won by “A” rated Republican Peter Roskama. Democrat Peter Welch (“A” rated) of Vermont will take over the at-large seat vacated by Socialist Sanders (“C-” rated). The sum of the results in these four races is no net change.
There were, of course, many other tough races where pro-rights activists provided the volunteer work and votes that helped keep seats in pro-gun hands. Among these are AZ 1 (Renzi), CA 4 (Doolittle), CO 4 (Musgrave), CO 5 (open, Lamborn), Florida (Buchanan, Keller, Bilirakis), IN 3 (Souder), MN 6 (Bachmann), NM 1 (Wilson), Ohio (Chabot, Schmidt, Tiberi, Pryce), VA10 (Wolf), and WY (Cubin).
Many Democrats are now saying that 2006 is their 1994. Arguably so. The number of 2006 losses by pro-gun candidates, however, is very small compared to the number of 1994 losses by anti-gun candidates. Democratic victories are no longer synonymous with gun control victories.
— Dave Kopel is research director at the Independence Institute.