In a previous post, I characterized Congressman Joe Schwarz as "anti-gun." In this post, I will take a closer look at his position on gun rights. Like all gun rights activists, I used the term "anti-gun" to mean "anti-gun rights." Whether Schwarz personally likes guns is irrelevant. The question is whether he supports gun rights for everyone. It's his beliefs and voting record that I care about.
This is what Schwarz has to say about gun rights on his House website:
I am a gun owner myself and I support the Second Amendment. Under the Constitution, Americans have the right to bear arms, and it should remain that way.
I am a proud co-sponsor of H.R. 800, sponsored by Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.). This bill shields gun manufacturers from liability for injuries due to unlawful use of firearms. I was pleased to vote for this bill when it came to floor on Oct. 20.
The Second Amendment was not written as a mere exercise in constitutional thought. It had a practical purpose: first, to ensure that citizens would have the tools to protect their families and their homes and, second, to ensure that an ARMED militia could be called up to defend the country in emergencies.
But lawsuits for damages due to criminal uses of firearms have the potential of crippling the American firearms industry, in the same manner as the threat of medical liability has crippled the medical industry. Why would we want to go down that route? Why would we want to put firearms out of the reach of law-abiding citizens.
I am also a co-sponsor of H.R. 1288, "The District of Columbia Personal Protection Act," sponsored by Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.).
Under existing D.C. statutes--which the Congress has power to overturn--D.C. residents are generally prohibited from firearm ownership within our nation's capital. Only under very rare exceptions are they allowed to possess a weapon in their home, and under few if any circumstances are they allowed to carry the weapon within their home for personal protection. This would seem to me to be unconstitional, [sic] and that is why, as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I have decided to co-sponsor this bill to restore D.C. residents' constitutional rights.
During debate on H.R. 3058, the appropriations bill for the District of Columbia, I voted for the Souder Amendment. This amendment, which was adopted, prevents the use of federal funds to enforce the D.C. gun ban."
This is what Tim Walberg says about his and Schwarz's positions on gun rights on his campaign site:
Tim Walberg believes the Second Amendment is a constitutional guarantee, not a personal opinion. He is a resolute supporter of sportsmen, a proud member of the NRA, and possesses a lifetime A+ NRA voting record rating.
Congressman Schwarz does not believe the Second Amendment of the Constitution gives individuals the right to keep and bear arms. [Detroit Free Press 7-4-02]. Schwarz also called Michigan's right-to-carry law "nuts" [MIRS 8-31-01]."
I have not independently verified these citations, but I have no reason to believe they are incorrect.
What do pro-gun organizations have to say about Schwarz?
In the 2004 congressional elections, the National Rifle Association gave Schwarz a raiting of 'B-'. It gave his Democratic opponent, Sharon Renier, an 'A' rating.
In the Gun Owners of America ratings of Congress, Schwarz receives a 'B' rating. GOA defines this to mean "Pro-Gun Compromiser: generally leans our way." It's not completely clear, but it appears that this rates only his one year in Congress, not his previous record.
I searched GOA's website for their ratings of Schwarz as a state legislator. Both their 1998 survey, when Schwarz was running for re-election to the State Senate, and their 2002 survey, when Schwarz was running for Governor are available, but Schwarz refused to fill either of them out.
In 2004, the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners (MCRGO) endorsed Democrat Sharon Renier over Schwarz. In 2002, MCRGO endorsed Dick Posthumus for Governor.
As of this date, it does not appear that any of these organizations have made an endorsement in the 2006 primary.
As a state senator, Schwarz voted against the concealed-carry bill that made Michigan a right-to-carry state. He was one of only four Republican state senators to do so. This was (in my opinion) the most important vote on gun rights that he has made, and he voted the wrong way.
Finally, there is this characterization of Schwarz's position that appeared in the August 4, 2002 edition of the Kalamazoo Gazette: "Yet while many Republicans disagree with Schwarz's support for abortion rights and for stricter gun controls, GOP Senators..." I knew my bag of old newspapers would come in handy someday!
In retrospect, it may have been too harsh to call Schwarz "anti-gun." He isn't in the Diane Feinstein camp. Nonetheless, he is at best unreliable, and there are a number of troubling aspects to his record. Tim Walberg is clearly the better candidate to defend and advance gun rights.