I posted a bit in the thread about Romney, where it’s been buried, so I’ll ask the question here: Which party at the Federal level (and especially the Presidency) has a better record being pro-gun for ordinary individuals? I mention ‘ordinary individuals’ because I think that ordinary citizens are the focus of ‘gun control’ discussion, not agents of the state like retired LEOs or gun manufacturers.
And please note that this isn’t intended to be a discussion about whether gun control in general or any particular law or policy is good or bad, this is essentially assuming ‘pro-gun is good, which party does more pro-gun stuff’?
My contention is that Democrats are consistently the party that does the most for gun rights. While it’s true that the perception is that Democrats are a bunch of gun-grabbing maniacs and Republicans are the staid supporters of second amendment rights, that doesn’t seem to be the case when looking at their actual record.
Certainly, Democratic presidents and candidates like both Clintons, Obama, and Biden call(ed) for gun control and especially an assault weapon ban, people overlook that Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes were all highly in favor of gun control. Nixon favored a total ban on handguns, saying “I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house.” Reagan didn’t do much during his presidency (the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which is not entirely positive, was signed by him but didn’t get endorsement), but after his presidency supported the 1993 Brady Bill and 1994 Assault Weapons ban - “At least two members of the House of Representatives credited Reagan with influencing their votes. The bill passed 216-214, a margin of two votes,” according to UCLA law professor Adam Winkler. Senior Bush implemented a ban on ‘assault weapon’ imports through an executive order in 1989, strongly supported the 1994 assault weapon ban, and got so irate at NRA rhetoric that he publicly renounced his membership. George W Bush stated that he was in favor of renewing the assault weapon ban, and told Congress that if they got a bill renewing it passed, he would definitely sign it. Romney while governor in 2004 said "“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,” though he shifted to a “no new gun control laws” position when he ran for president. The only Republican president or recent presidential candidate who hasn’t signed or endorsed an assault weapons ban is Trump - and he chose to implement new gun control through executive order (the bump stock ban).
So, in summary: The Brady Bill and Assault Weapon ban were the only two major pieces of federal gun control legislation passed since 1990. Both were strongly supported by all pre-Trump Republican presidents. They were passed primarily by Democratic legislators, but there were Republicans who crossed the line. There have been two notable executive orders implementing additional gun control, both were implemented by Republican presidents and neither have been rescinded by Republican presidents.
In terms of pro-gun legislation, The 2004 Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act and the 2005 “The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and Child Safety Lock Act” passed under Bush with Republican majorities don’t affect regular individuals. The first allows nationwide concealed carry for retired LEOs, and the second protects manufacturers from liability lawsuits. On the other hand, the In 2010, with Obama as president and Democratic majorities in Congress, a law allowing concealed carry in national parks was passed. In the same year, a law removing the Bush-era restriction on transporting firearms via Amtrack was also passed.
So, when Democrats have had control of Congress and the Presidency, they’ve used it in the 90s to pass legislation endorsed by every Republican president since 1980 except for Trump, and since 2000 for some expansion of gun rights. Even when they had a full majority in Congress and Obama as president, they did not implement any new gun control in this millennium. On the flip side, when Republicans have had control of Congress and the Presidency, they have not passed pro-gun legislation affecting regular individuals or repealed anti-gun legislation.
In terms of the Judiciary, it’s also doesn’t seem to be very clear cut. From 1940 to 2008, the Supreme court declined to hear any second amendment cases at all. In 2008 DC v Heller established that owning handguns for self defense was covered under the 2nd amendment, and in 2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago explicitly incorporated this protection to the states, not just DC. While the single pair of cases is dramatic, DC’s gun ban had been in place since 1975 (33 years) and Chicago’s since 1982 (28 years). This year alone the Supreme Court simply declined to hear 10 different very solid cases challenging state laws on the basis of DC v Heller. While there’s a theory that judges appointed by Republicans are ready for an orgy of striking down gun laws across the country, that doesn’t seem to fit the facts. The history says that they will let ‘bad’ laws sit for a quarter to a third of a century refusing to hear cases before finally doing anything about them, and that they are only willing to intervene in really extreme cases (DC and Chicago had outright bans, but New York’s extremely selective licensing is apparently fine).
So, overall while Republican-appointed SC judges are slightly more pro-gun than others, in practice it doesn’t appear that they are actually willing to strike down any legislation less overwhelming than what passed in DC and Chicago.
So, overall what am I missing? Or am I right in questioning the widely-held idea that electing Republicans to federal office is good for individual gun rights?