It's no secret to anyone who is paying attention that gun rights are in the crosshairs of the political debate.
We no longer live in a time where gun control advocates hide their views behind "gun safety" doubletalk, at this point, the lines have become pretty clear. This year saw a Democratic Presidential Primary where the candidates sought to one-up each other on their support for stricter gun control laws and California just passed some of the most anti-gun legislation in our nation's history.
The President's latest executive order relating to ITAR permits will likely put hundreds of small time gunsmiths, already a dying breed, out of business permanently. The United States Supreme Court is up for grabs. We live in perilous times.
Under the circumstances, it bears quoting Jed Eckert: "So, who is on our side?" The good news is, many in Congress. Over the past few years, we have witnessed several tragic mass shootings on our nation's soil, each followed by loud cries to restrict the rights of all Americans.
In the face of this overwhelming pressure from the media, the public, and gun control advocates who have waited decades to take advantage of such tragedies, many have stood in the gap. Some Republican, some Democrat, some in positions of leadership and some who are rank and file members of Congress, the list of those who have fought to protect gun rights in thankfully long.
As the 2016 General Election approaches, we wanted to highlight some of those who have stood their ground to defend our most fundamental freedoms. There are thousands of elected officials doing great work in state capitols and legislatures across this country, far too many to review.
Congress alone has 535 sitting members, a fair review of which would fill many volumes of this entire magazine. We chose to highlight ten members from each chamber, ten Senators and ten members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have gone above and beyond in protecting firearms rights.
This isn't a ranking per se, but a list of honorable mentions — each of these members has contributed significantly to the cause of defeating statutory erosions of the Second Amendment.
Gun rights organizations such as the NRA have access to detailed databases of voting records and are far better qualified than we to make truly objective candidate rankings. We have, however, placed an emphasis on members who are seeking reelection in 2016: every member of the House must stand for reelection every two years while only a third of the Senate is currently running.
So here they are, the Best Politicians for Gun Owners for 2016 according to us.
The House of Representatives:
Speaker Paul Ryan (WI)
If you only have one vote in a legislative chamber on your side, you want it to be the presiding officer of that chamber. Speaker Ryan, like Speaker Boehner before him, has held the helm of the House firmly against the rising tide of gun control votes.
Speaker Ryan has been a steadfast supporter of gun rights for his entire political career and is himself both a shooter and a hunter. If your thankful that you haven't seen federal gun control legislation pass during the Obama Administration, much credit goes to House Republican Leadership including Speaker Ryan.
Rep. Rob Wittman (VA)
Rep. Wittman was one of the primary sponsors of the Sportsman's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which passed the House in early 2016.
The SHARE act will enhance access to public lands for hunting and shooting, protect the right of self-defense, and curtail punitive regulations promoted by environmental extremists.
One of the most important elements of the bill is the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, which would allow a greater slice of the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition to be returned to the states for the use of acquiring land for public target ranges. Rep. Wittman also co-sponsored the Hearing Protection Act, which would remove suppressors from the National Firearms Act.
Rep. Bob Latta (OH)
Rep. Latta Co-Chairs the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and has been a steadfast supporter of the rights of gun owners.
Rep. Latta Co-sponsored versions of the SHARE Act for years, and has helped lead the fight to protect traditional ammunition from regulation by the EPA.
Rep. Richard Hudson (NC)
Rep. Hudson sponsored legislation in 2015 that would provide for national Right-To-Carry reciprocity which currently has 216 co-sponsors.
Hudson gets A ratings from both NRA and GOA.
Rep. Rob Bishop (UT)
Rep. Bishop has served as the Chairman of the important House Committee on Natural Resources. Last year, Chairman Bishop introduced "Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act of 2015."
This key legislation would remove ATF's authority to interpret the "sporting purposes" clauses in federal law and broaden the category to include self-defense. ATF has used this clause to ban the importation of firearms and ammunition including most 5.45x39mm ammo.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT)
Rep. Chaffetz, who Chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is a strong opponent of gun control laws.
Rep. Chaffetz has helped lead the investigation into "Operation Fast and Furious" and been among the administration's most vocal critics of its role in that debacle. Chaffetz is also a firm supporter of the rights of suppressor owners.
Rep. Crescent Hardy (NV)
Though a relatively new member, Rep. Hardy stood fast with his colleagues in voting against the most recent round of gun control efforts.
Rep. Hardy's support for the rights of law-abiding Nevadans has put him in the crosshair's of Bloomberg's Anti-Gun front group "Moms Demand Action." Hardy's likely opponent in the general election recently publicly renounced NRA and resigned his membership so, the choice here is pretty clear.
Rep. Don Young (AK)
Rep. Young has been fighting for gun rights in Congress since he was first elected in 1973. Don Young is a member of the NRA's Board of Directors and his list of pro-gun votes in the U.S. House is too extensive to list. Rep.
Young is an avid hunter and shooter and has very much "walked the walk" for decades.
Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL)
Rep. Byrne, who represents Southwest Alabama, has a pro-gun voting record that goes back to his days in the Alabama Senate. Byrne is among the members who can be counted-on to stand firm against whatever gun control proposal comes down the pike.
Among other actions, Byrne co-sponsored a bill to remove common 5.56mm ammunition from the definition of "armor piercing".
Rep. Tim Walz (MN)
A Democrat, Rep. Walz proves that gun rights are not always partisan issues. Walz Co-sponsored ATF reform legislation back in 2008 and was a lead sponsor in the SHARE Act.
While most congressional Democrats have jumped on the gun control train with both feet, Tim Walz and a few others have stuck to their guns.
Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)
Even on the national stage as a major presidential candidate, Senator Rubio never wavered from his support for the rights of gun owners. Rubio's pro-gun record goes back more than a decade during his years as a member of the Florida House. While in the U.S. Senate, Rubio introduced the Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015 to stop the abuses of "Operation Choke Point", introduced legislation to protect the rights of D.C. gun owners, and supported national Right-To-Carry legislation.
Rubio grew up in a community that saw their rights stripped away by a communist regime and that experience obviously left an indelible mark on his respect for the U.S. Constitution.
Senator Roy Blunt (MO)
Senator Blunt's pro-gun voting record is hard to beat and goes back to the 1990s when he was a member of the House. When the media attacked him for being NRA's top recipient of campaign funds, his campaign's response didn't mince words "He is glad to have the support of the overwhelming majority of Missourians who agree with him that our right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution and is worth protecting."
Then Congressman Blunt co-sponsored a national RTC bill and Senator Blunt voted to support the Protection of Lawful Commerce of Arms Act. Blunt voted in opposition to magazine restrictions and against the Toomey-Manchin background check Amendment.
Senator Rob Portman (OH)
As a Congressman, Senator Portman stood against the onslaught of gun control bills brought by President Clinton and his allies in the 1990s. Portman voted against the Brady Bill as well as the 1994 Semi-Auto Ban, and voted to repeal the ban in 1996.
As a Senator, Portman voted to protect the firearms industry from predatory lawsuits and voted to repeal the D.C. gun ban. In 2013, Portman cast his vote in-opposition to imposing universal background checks.
Senator Johnny Isakson (GA)
Besides being a leading advocate for the gun rights of veterans, Senator Isakson has a long history of supporting gun owners. He signed the congressional amicus briefs in both the Heller and McDonald gun rights cases, and voted to for the Lawful Commerce of Arms Act which became law in 2005.
Senator Ron Johnson (WI)
Sen. Johnson chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where he had been a leading voice for gun owners. Johnson opposed the UN Arms Treaty and voted against a Blumenthal-sponsored amendment that would have banned magazines with capacities exceeding 10 rounds.
Johnson voted against S. 649 in 2013 and the mandatory background check proposal called the Toomey-Manchin Amendment that same year.
Senator Richard Shelby (AL)
Senator Shelby's political career dates back to the 1970s: he has been elected to the State Senate, the U.S. House, and has served in the U.S. Senate since 1987. Shelby's voting record includes voting against the 1994 semi-auto ban, voting in favor of protecting gunmakers from frivolous lawsuits, voting for national RTC reciprocity, and voting to end the D.C. gun ban.
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Shelby has been a key ally to gun owners and gun rights advocates.
Senator John Cornyn (TX)
Following the Orlando shootings, when an effort was made to ban the sale of firearms to anyone on a secret "Terrorist Watch List", Senator Cornyn led an effort to pass legislation that would bar real terrorists from legally obtaining guns while protecting the rights of all Americans.
Senator Cornyn filed a national RTC bill in 2015 and when the Obama Administration proposed placing the names of disabled Americans into the NCIS as "prohibited persons", Cornyn introduced a bill to stop it. Cornyn voted for the Protection of the Lawful Commerce of Arms Act and voted to oppose mandatory background checks in 2013.
Senator Chuck Grassley (IA)
As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Grassley is in a tremendously powerful position when it comes to gun control legislation.
Grassley has fought efforts to disarm veterans, voted against the 1994 semi-auto ban, voted to protect against gun manufacturer lawsuits, and has opposed efforts to implement mandatory background checks including the Toomey-Manchin Amendment.
Senator Mike Crapo (ID)
Idaho's Mike Crapo has led the fight for gun owners' rights while on federal lands. In 2015, Crapo introduced legislation that would allow for firearms on the 11.7 million acres owned or operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Previously, Crapo led the successful effort to allow for carry in national parks and wildlife refuges.
Crapo voted to protect the gun rights of D.C. residents, co-sponsored the bill to end predatory lawsuits against the gun industry, and opposed the Toomey-Manchin Amendment in 2013.
Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH)
Senator Ayotte is in a tough battle for reelection in a comparably liberal New England state and the media is vehemently attacking her for her pro-gun record. Though Ayotte's efforts to reach a compromise on the terror watch list issue has angered many gun rights supporters, her actual voting record is solid. Ayotte voted to defeat the universal background check amendment in 2013 and, as the Granite State's Attorney General, she signed the pro second amendment amicus brief on the Heller case in 2008.
Ayotte's opponent, current Governor Maggie Hassan, vetoed permitless carry bills two years in a row as well as legislation to protect gun owners' rights during emergencies. She did, however, sign legislation to allow for suppressor use while hunting. Voters can assume that Hassan, who received a "D" rating from NRA during her last Governor's race, would not be a better choice when it comes to gun rights issues.
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