Gun Control


At The New York Times’ select website, there’s an article (which will not be accessible unless you’re a paid subscriber) entitled “A Right Turn On The Road to Giuliani ’08.”  I can’t quote it too extensively because, well, the Times is charging for it because they’re a business.  With newspaper circulation continuing to decline, it’s hard to judge them too severely for that.  Anyway, it sharply criticizes Rudy Giuliani for what the author views as flip-flops on abortion choice, gun control, and especially immigration:

‘As mayor, Mr. Giuliani ordered that [illegal immigrants] not be denied city services like schools and hospitals.  He insisted that city workers not serve, in effect, as immigration agents.  His policies swam against the national Republican tide. […]

 ‘Where he once spoke firmly about tending even to illegal immigrants, he now puts more stress on penalizing them.  Where he once talked about their contributions, he now urges tougher border controls.  Where he once forbade his police force to ask a person’s immigration status, he now wants illegal immigrants to be issued identity cards. […]

‘”It is post-9/11,” [Ms. Oltarsh-McCarthy] said.  “But it seems to me that inherent in that assumption is that immigrants are potential criminals.  He never before spoke of immigrants as criminals.  It scares me that he would move to a place where people are demonized like this.  He was steadfastly against the idea of people having to carry ID cards.  He saw is as un-American.” […]

‘The flip-flop accusation, hardly a plus for any candidate, is especially important in Mr. Giuliani’s case because he presents himself as a singular anchor of principle, not someone who bends in the political winds.

 ‘Yet bend he seems to have done.  As mayor, he was fully for abortion rights.  As a presidential candidate, he says he would appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court — code, to many, for undermining Roe v. Wade.



Mt. Rushmore

For those of you who missed Bruce J. Schulman’s perceptive and fascinating op-ed “Beware the politician who won’t flip-flop” in the LA Times a few weeks ago, the Boston University history professor argues that flip-flopping has a long, venerable (!), and necessary (!!) history among even some very renowned presidents and, when it reflects flexibility or the good of the nation, can be very beneficial indeed:

‘In American politics, the flip-flop can be fatal. […]

‘Nearly all the major presidential candidates are already scurrying — more than a year and a half before the election — to defend themselves against charges that they have reversed themselves on fundamental issues of policy in a shameless pandering for votes.

Schulman provides a useful thumbnail sketch of todays’ candidates’ turnarounds:

‘Among the leading Republicans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has switched sides on abortion, gun control and same-sex marriage (all from pro to anti). Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has chas on partial-birth abortion and gun control (both from pro to anti). And Sen. John McCain has flip-flopped on Bush’s tax cut (from no to no problem), and late last month, he appeared to waffle in his support for creating a legal path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

‘On the Democratic side, it’s all about hypocrisy on Iraq. Critics recently scorched Sen. Barack Obama for repeatedly voting for Iraq appropriations while claiming unwavering opposition to the war — he wants, they said, to have it both ways. Former Sen. John Edwards renounced his 2002 vote for the war, and though he’d like to say it was a matter of principle rather than convenience, not everyone agrees. And Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton turns rhetorical cartwheels in her continuing effort to distance herself from her vote to authorize the Iraq war without technically repudiating it. […]


Mitt Romney sat down on Friday with to discuss his views on just about everything. In between talk on abortion and the Iraq war, Romney was asked about gun control and his views on the Second Amendment. This is a new hot issue in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Romney reiterated his stance that of “let[ting] individual states and communities decide what they think is best.” But then he waxes poetic on the rights of gun owners:

I realize people will always take the occasion of a major news event to push their agenda. There are people in this country who fundamentally believe that people in our country should not be allowed to have guns. They’re wrong. The Second Amendment protects the rights of individual citizens to bear arms to protect themselves, and I will defend the Second Amendment. I think efforts to politicize this tragedy are mistaken and misdirected.

He continues to say;

But, look, we’ve gotta fundamentally recognize the need to protect the right to bear arms and the fact that there are people who are trying to remove that right inch by inch, and we’re gonna have to defend against that.

The problem is that Governor Mitt Romney was one of those people trying to incrementally take away gun owner’s rights in 2004 when he signed into Massachusetts law a permanent assault weapons ban.

Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts. These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.

The ban prohibits such guns as the AK-47, the UZI and the Mac-10. Now I don’t want to get bogged down in a bad joke about whether Mitt Romney is or is not a hunter, but like so many other things about his candidacy, his views on gun control remain fairly unclear.

In the wake of Monday’s horrific events, each candidate issued statements expressing prayers and then, surely, got to work figuring out what this means for their campaigns, our nation, our laws, and ourselves. As quoted at, Giuliani now asserts that “this tragedy does not alter the second amendment.”

This is in line with other statements he’s made recently. From a New York Times article,

‘There are people on both sides of the gun control issue who say Mr. Giuliani has changed positions, not just language, on an issue of vital importance to many voters. The most important example, they say, is that as mayor he advocated national standards, while recently he has said that gun control issues should be decided by state and local governments.

“There can be reasonable restrictions, and they largely should be done by state and by — and then, you know, done by legislatures,” he said at a news conference on March 12 in Washington.

People on both sides of the issue say that represents a shift.

Mr. Giuliani’s aides say his basic view — allowing reasonable limits on gun ownership — has been consistent over the years.’

At least they admit that he does advocate some “reasonable limits,” as he has since his 1980s days as a Justice Department official supporting mandatory waiting periods and a ban on armor-piercing bullets. Perhaps the biggest flip-flop in Giuliani’s gun views, though, is his retreat from advocating national gun policies such as the Federal ban on assault weapons or national standards for gun licensing, both of which he extensively advocated in the 1990s.

So Giuliani has moved from major gun control advocate to cautious 2nd amendment devotee — though, to be fair, his campaign does claim that the national standards he advocated were meant as guidelines rather than strict regulations. The New York Times does not seem convinced, however.

In the wake of a national tragedy it seems appropriate to cite the comments the candidates have made in reference to the shooting that happened at Virginia Tech yesterday. Some offer condolences, some offer prayers, some offer community and support, but they all try to grapple with the difficult question of how to deal with grief and loss. Many of these come from CNN, others were emails from the campaign or official posted statements.