Guns have become a political weapon in the 2014 Campaign. The Democrats are trying to prove who is the most in favor of gun control and meanwhile the Republicans need to court the "gun vote."
Over 20,000 Rhode Islanders are registered members of local sportsmen clubs. In the past sportsmen clubs have been popular political hangouts for Republicans and sportsmen have been integral volunteers for Republican campaigns. But this time around it is unclear where the sportsmen vote will go.
The mainstream Democrats, Angel Taveras, Gina Raimondo, and Clay Pell have all made it clear they support some form of gun control. So it is unlikely any of them will court the sportsmen votes. Then there are the Republicans, Ken Block and Allan Fung.
Fung's first shots at the "gun people" came when he criticized the GOP gun raffle. Most people seemed to think raffling off an assault rifle was a bit extreme, Fung said while he supports gun owners and gun rights he did not think a gun raffle was the best idea for the party. More recently, Fung has been taking some criticism after he pulled a Mitt Romney saying his position has evolved when it comes to the sale of assault rifles. Turns out in 2003 as a city councilor in Cranston, Fung supported a resolution asking area gun shops to stop selling assault weapons. It was just a resolution, nothing binding but it does indicate that Fung was not what you would call a "gun enthusiast." For his part he said, "At the time of the non-binding resolution, I had never used a firearm and was unfamiliar with the differences among specific firearms.
Over time, I became more familiar with the topic. I have friends who actively shoot recreationally, and they encouraged me to spend time at firing ranges. As a result, I have learned more about some of the firearms referenced in that resolution and have become a recreational shooter. From what I have learned, the real issue is ensuring that guns don't end up in the hands of criminals, while upholding the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens."
Meanwhile his opponent Ken Block has been mum on the evolution of Fung's gun position. As he should be. I don't think it is a stretch to say that most people don't think of Block as a big "gun guy" and Block's 2010 NRA questionnaire shows that while he is not opposed to guns he is not over-the-top about them either. He stated that he doesn't support any additional gun control but is fine with the current state of the law. In a statement about his stance Block said, "As Governor I have no intention or desire to change the gun laws that presently exist in the State of Rhode Island. Our state already has significant regulations on those who own guns." He goes on the criticize Raimondo divesting in gun companies and states that he has been a defender of the people's second amendment rights."
Block has never been in the position to vote on gun issues like Allan Fung so all the second amendment supporters have to go by is the NRA Questionnaire, a Project Vote Smart survey, and what Block says. On the questionnaire , Block says he doesn't want to prevent officials from confiscating legal guns during investigations because many of them are confiscated from gang members and he does not support reciprocity for carry permits from state to state. On the Project Vote Smart survey, Block indicates that he is opposed to conceal carry permits. A big issue for Second Amendment advocates. Fair enough. Block is not over the top about guns but he also says he has no plans to further limit gun rights.
Meanwhile, the true gun rights guy is flying far under the radar. Todd Giroux, a Democratic Candidate for Governor has been out in front of the issue speaking at Second Amendment Rallies. "''The rights of citizens to bear Arms and that right to not be infringed ' is a clear and plain spoken constitutional law that ensures citizens will always be free to defend themselves from foreign and domestic threats to their property and family. I do not support the proposed tax and legislation to gun ownership," said Giroux.
That is pretty clear. No ifs, ands, or buts, about it, Todd Giroux supports gun owner's rights and plans to protect them if elected. While most people forget Giroux is even in the race, Giroux's gun stance will give him a chance to make a name for himself among a certain niche block of voters. The chances of Giroux winning a primary against well-funded Democrats is slim if not near impossible, but what he may do is attract the attention of the second amendment supporters who right now do not have a strong gun candidate.
The gun rights supporters may be split when it comes to the Governors race some choosing to support Giroux based on their ideals, others choosing to support either Fung or Block. Usually the Second Amendment supporters vote as a united block but here, they may not be able to. You can expect both Block and Fung to ratchet up visits to local sportsmen's clubs and to step up the pro-second amendment rhetoric, but at this point it is unclear whether either candidate has enough gusto on the issue to get the second sportsmen to turn out for a primary. Which is unfortunate because in the Republican primary a block the size of the sportsmen in not insignificant. Both candidates have seven months to court this block and if either Ken Block or Allan Fung is able to gain ground among the gun rights supporters it will likely be a boost to the campaign.
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An earlier version of this post was amended to include the Project vote Smart Survey
Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.