Under the Gun
A Second Amendment look at the elections.


Where are the most important opportunities and dangers for the Second Amendment in the congressional and gubernatorial races? Here’s a state-by-state rundown, including every gubernatorial and U.S. Senate election, plus all of the U.S. House races that Stuart Rothenberg does not classify as safe.

To summarize: The three gubernatorial races that are close and that feature major differences between the candidates on Second Amendment issues are Washington, Montana, and New Hampshire.

In the Senate, gun owners start off with a guaranteed gain of three seats on Election Night, regardless of which party wins, in Indiana, New Mexico, and North Dakota. In four states — Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Virginia — there are serious risks that seats could be taken by new senators hostile to gun rights. Plausible opportunities to gain seats for the Second Amendment exist in Maine, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In these eight swing Senate states considered together, the possibility of a net loss probably exceeds the possibility of a net gain.

As for the U.S. House, a rough estimate would be that if the net gain for Democrats is x, then the net loss for gun owners will be about one-half or two-thirds of x. In swing districts, most candidates are unwilling to forgo the 5 percent of the vote that can be lost by opposing Second Amendment rights. So, in these districts, candidates of both parties tend to support the Second Amendment. Thus, the net change in House composition on the gun issue tends to be smaller than the net party change in any given year.

For each candidate below, I list the party affiliation, and then the candidate’s grade from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund. The grade of “AQ” is given to a candidate whose answers to the 2012 NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire are very good, but who does not have a track record of Second Amendment votes. A grade of “n/a” means that the candidate did not respond to the NRA questionnaire.

Senate: Republican Minority Whip Jon Kyl is retiring. He was swept into office by the 1994 NRA landslide, and he never forgot it. U.S. Representative Jeff Flake (R., A), formerly ran the Goldwater Institute, a pro–Second Amendment think tank. He has a very close race with former Bush surgeon general Richard Carmona (D., n/a).

House, first district (northeast). This open-seat race features two state legislators, both with good records on guns: Jonathan Paton (R., A) vs. Ann Kirkpatrick (D., A).

House, second district (southeast): Former Gabrielle Giffords staffer Ron Barber (D., n/a) versus former Air Force combat fighter pilot Martha McSally (R., AQ).      

House, ninth district (new seat): Social worker Krysten Sinema (D., F), faces off with Vernon Parker (R., AQ), who would be the first black elected to Congress from Arizona.       


Senate: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., F) worked relentlessly to pass the 1994 ban on over 200 semi-automatic firearms, which sunset in 2004. She is well ahead of businesswoman Elizabeth Emken (R., AQ). 

House, third district (East Bay): A longtime state official, John Garamendi (D., F) has consistently represented the viewpoint of the Bay Area’s anti-gun bigots. He is challenged by County Supervisor Kim Vann (R., AQ).   

House, seventh district (Sacramento suburbs): Dan Lungren (R., C) beat medical professor Ami Bera (D., n/a) in 2010, but the conventional wisdom is that this time Bera will be stronger.

House, ninth district (central): Incumbent Jerry McNerney (D., F) is sometimes a moderate on social issues, but not on gun rights. His opponent, Ricky Gill (R., AQ) was a strong advocate for charter schools when he served on the California State Board of Education.

House, tenth district (Central Valley): First-termer Jeff Denham (R., A) faces astronaut Jose Hernandez (D., n/a).         

House, 24th district (Santa Barbara County): Lois Capps (D., F) has held the seat since 1998, and faces former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado (R., C).       

House, 26th district (Ventura County): For this open seat, state senator Tony Strickland (R., A-) is opposed by state representative Julia Brownley (D., F).       

House, 36th district (Inland Empire): Mary Bono Mack (R., A−) won this seat when her husband, Sonny, died in a ski accident in 1998. Her formidable opponent is medical-school dean Raul Ruiz (D., n/a). 

House, 41st district (Riverside): In this new seat, County Supervisor John Tavaglione (R., AQ) is pitted against high-school teacher Mark Takano (D., n/a).

House, 52nd district (San Diego County): Incumbent Brian Bilbray (R., A) is best known as an advocate of strict enforcement of laws against illegal immigration. He is opposed by city councilman (and former EPA economist) Scott Peters (D., n/a).         


House, third district (the Western Slope plus Pueblo): This district is always competitive, which means that the winners almost always are solid on gun rights. First-termer Scott Tipton (R., A) has a tough race against state representative Sal Pace (D., A).

House, sixth district (the eastern Denver suburbs): Because of redistricting, this seat is now more balanced than it used to be. Incumbent Mike Coffman (R., A) has been a Second Amendment stalwart ever since he was first elected to the state legislature in 1988. He faces state representative Joe Miklosi (D., F).

House, seventh district (the western Denver suburbs): This seat, too, is more balanced because of redistricting. Incumbent Ed Perlmutter (D., F) is a tireless campaigner, but he faces a tough race from high-tech businessman Joe Coors Jr. (R., AQ).