2012 Presidential Debate Rebuttal: Romney Misunderstands 2nd Amendment

by James N. Clymer, 2012 Constitution Party Vice-Presidential candidate

Jim Clymer 1It would be difficult to identify a principle more fundamental to America as a constitutional republic than the proposition that our rights come from God and it is the duty of government to protect them. As to the rights recognized and protected by the Second Amendment, virtually no one voting in November would believe that President Obama shares this view. And, at the second 2012 presidential debate, Mitt Romney revealed that he, too, believes neither aspect of this foundational principle.

When the debate topic turned to his defense of gun rights, Gov. Romney tried to talk around the issue. Candy Crowley brought him up short, asking, “I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. … Why have you changed your mind?” Well, the debate transcript suggests that she may have been assuming facts not in evidence – not about signing the ban, but about changing his mind.

Indeed, moderator Crowley was absolutely right about what happened in Massachusetts. At the time, the governor’s office put out a press release claiming that the “permanent assault weapons ban” eliminated “deadly assault weapons [which] have no place in Massachusetts.” In fact, once on “Meet the Press,” Gov. Romney confirmed that as president he would have signed the federal assault weapons ban that had just expired if it had come to his desk.

Has Romney changed his mind? At the debate, he made the general statement “I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal.” Can we take that answer to the bank? Hardly!

Romney’s statements at the debate needed to be questioned and challenged, but the primary role of the Commission on Presidential Debates is to keep candidates other than Republicans and Democrats off the stage, and it does a great job at that. It ensured that my Constitution Party running mate in the presidential race, former Rep. Virgil Goode, was unable to present to the American People a conservative, constitutional perspective on any topic. Fortunately, Virgil Goode and the other candidates for president will be debating on Tuesday, Oct. 23, and the event will be broadcast live on Ora TV.

But at the nationally broadcast debates, both Republicans and Democrats are free to sell out the Constitution with abandon and without challenge. Let me take this opportunity on behalf of our ticket to pose to the governor a question or two – questions we know with certainty will be ignored and never be answered.

At the debate, the governor explained his support for the Massachusetts assault weapon ban as follows: “The pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together … an assault weapon ban … because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted [such as hunting opportunities and] that’s what we need more of.”

Mitt, I ask you, if we are truly endowed by our Creator with rights such as life and liberty, and the framers understood that life and liberty require the right to keep and bear arms, can those rights really be compromised away by the consensus of a gaggle of lobbyists?

And if governments are instituted among men “to secure these rights,” was it really your job as governor to mediate between those who want to repeal some or all of the Constitution’s protections and those who want to keep them intact?

What are we to take away about Romney from his performance in the second debate? Well, we now know that Mitt doesn’t know a great deal about either firearms or the Second Amendment.

First, it is not illegal to own “automatic” weapons in the United States – it just has been made extremely difficult and expensive to do so.

Second, “assault weapons” function about the same as all other semi-automatic weapons, just like the ones we take to the field to hunt. They are not a class of weapons – more a pejorative term for those rifles Sen. Dianne Feinstein thinks looks scary.

Third, the key to understanding the Second Amendment is not hunting. I have been an avid deer hunter since my youth, but hunting and target shooting are just some of the things that you can do with firearms; not the constitutional core of the right. The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It says nothing about hunting. But it does identify the Amendment’s objective – “a free State” and the Amendment’s means to achieve a free state: a self-regulated, citizen’s Militia capable of resisting a tyrannical government.

With that in mind, the Second Amendment either protects the right of the people “to keep and bear” modern semi-automatic rifles or it doesn’t. It is a matter of discerning intent of the framers of the Second Amendment. The right protects modern military weapons of the sort that members of the Militia would take to the Village Green to Muster. That does not mean Revolution-era weapons, but modern military weapons. And just so there is no confusion, I happen to believe it extends to fully-automatic weapons of the sort issued to the military.

Constitutional rights are not frozen in time. The First Amendment right to distribute pamphlets now covers the right to use modern methods of communication. Similarly, the Fourth Amendment right to be secure in your letters now includes the right to be secure in your email. It most definitely is not a matter of reaching a consensus between two groups of lobbyists as to whether constitutional rights can be horse traded away for increased hunting rights.

One would hope that candidates for president of the United States could at least agree with the people that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” But neither Obama nor Romney can be trusted to defend the Second Amendment, and in no way should those who love liberty throw away their vote on men such as these.


Jim Clymer is the Constitution Party candidate for vice president of the United States, the running mate of former Congressman Virgil Goode. Mr. Clymer served as chairman of The Constitution Party for 12 years. He practices law in Lancaster, Pa., with Clymer, Musser & Conrad, P.C. He can be reached at jim@clymerlaw.com. You can follow Jim Clymer on Twitter at twitter.com/jimclymer.