Retaining the Balance: Regardless of whether your state’s legislature has a pro-gun or anti-gun majority, there is one office that could decide whether your rights are expanded or diminished over the next several years—the office of governor. Here are the critical state races that NRA members must win:
While congressional elections will likely get the lion’s share of media coverage leading up to Nov. 6, gun owners know that threats to our right to keep and bear arms do not only emanate from Washington, D.C. State legislatures regularly move far more swiftly than Congress when it comes to considering proposals that impact our Second Amendment freedoms.
Regardless of whether your state’s legislature has a pro-gun or anti-gun majority, there is one office that could decide whether your rights are expanded or diminished over the next several years—the office of governor.
As an advocate for the Second Amendment, a pro-gun governor can help shepherd bills through the legislature and sign them into law. A pro-gun governor can also help derail anti-gun bills before they gather momentum, or veto them if they make it to his or her desk.
In addition, governors often make key appointments to state positions that can impact gun owners, especially those who support our hunting heritage. State agencies that regulate hunting are often populated by individuals appointed by governors, so a governor who respects our freedoms can ensure that hunting is protected now and in the future.
Governors can also play a key role in judicial appointments. Most states have a process for appointing judges that will involve that state’s governor. Anti-gun activist judges have done as much damage, if not more, to the rights of gun owners as legislators have. Electing pro-gun governors helps ensure the appointment of judges who also respect the Second Amendment.
Finally, there is the issue of appointing U.S. senators when one can no longer serve in the office to which he or she was elected. Thirty-six states allow governors to make appointments to fill a Senate seat that becomes empty.
This year, however, there is another reason why gubernatorial races are so critical.
In 2020, the nation will hold its 24th census, and the results will impact both Congress and state legislatures for the following decade. Significant changes in our country’s population, especially in its distribution, will lead to redrawing the maps that determine the districts represented by both members of Congress and members of each state’s legislative body.
Although redistricting is intended to be non-partisan, in the real world—especially in the highly charged political climate we live in today—redistricting often becomes a political football. It is not unheard of to see a popular legislator who is seen as unbeatable at the polls to have his district redrawn to his disadvantage. This has happened a number of times to pro-gun legislators.
For this reason, electing pro-gun governors is more important this year than in years not linked to the census. While the redistricting process varies across the country, governors can often directly or indirectly influence the process.
As I’ve written before, protecting our pro-gun majorities in Congress is a priority. But electing or re-electing pro-gun governors is just as critical.
Below are a few of the gubernatorial races across the country this fall. If your state is not listed below but has an important race for governor, it needs your attention. The NRA-PVF website, nrapvf.org, will provide key information that will assist you in helping to elect pro-gun candidates in your state.
ARIZONA Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has recently helped to strengthen the pro-gun majority in the U.S. Senate by appointing former Sen. Jon Kyl to the vacancy created by the passing of Sen. John McCain. Ducey, who has received an “A” from NRA-PVF, has worked with NRA on crafting legislation to strengthen school security without diminishing the rights of law-abiding firearm owners. His opponent, David Garcia, D, has made numerous anti-gun statements, including support for banning firearms, and has earned an “F” from the NRA-PVF. He has also made the empty pledge “to take no contributions from the National Rifle Association,” showing his contempt for our 6 million members across the country. Ducey has earned the support of the pro-gun community in Arizona.
FLORIDA Congressman Ron DeSantis, R, has proven his support for our Second Amendment freedoms. He has earned an “A” rating from NRA-PVF for his outstanding voting record on firearm-related legislation. DeSantis supported the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, the strongest self-defense bill to ever pass out of the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would ensure that the nearly 20 million law-abiding Americans who can carry a concealed firearm in their home state are able to carry across state lines. He also voted for legislation to support the rights of hunters and sportsmen, as well as supported legislation to protect both veterans and Social Security beneficiaries from losing their Second Amendment rights. His opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, D, has stated his support for banning some of the most commonly owned firearms and magazines, and has called for imposing new, draconian restrictions on lawful firearm transfers. A vote for Ron DeSantis as governor is a vote to defend the Second Amendment.
GEORGIA The contrast between Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, R, and his opponent could not be more stark. Kemp currently holds an “A” rating from NRA-PVF. He supports permitless carry in Georgia and supports strengthening the state’s pre-emption law. While serving in the Georgia Senate, Kemp helped ensure the passage of legislation to protect law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms for self-defense. His opponent, State Rep. Stacey Abrams, D, tweeted she is “proud of her F rating from the NRA.” She supports criminalizing the private transfer of firearms, would allow constitutionally protected rights to be stripped without due process of law, and was the lead sponsor of a bill that would ban hundreds of firearms, magazines, and popular ammunition. Electing Brian Kemp is critical to protecting our right to keep and bear arms in Georgia.
IOWA Gov. Kim Reynolds, R, has stated her clear support for law-abiding gun owners and has earned an “A” rating from NRA-PVF. Iowa is one of only six states that does not have an amendment in its state constitution protecting our right to keep and bear arms. Reynolds supports the current effort in Iowa to put such an amendment on the ballot. Her continued support as governor will be critical to ensure this effort is successful. Reynolds’ opponent, Fred Hubbell, has refused to fill out our candidate questionnaire and let our members know where he stands on the Second Amendment. Fortunately, we know where Reynolds stands, so the pro-gun community in Iowa knows they need to vote for her in November.
KANSAS Kris Kobach, R, was first elected secretary of state of Kansas in 2010, with an “A” rating and endorsement from NRA-PVF. He was re-elected in 2014, again with an “A” and endorsement, and is now running for governor. An avid hunter and gun owner, Kobach has pledged to defend our right to keep and bear arms, and understands that self-defense is one of the most basic human rights that must be protected. In contrast, his opponent, State Sen. Laura Kelly, D, has received an “F” rating from the NRA-PVF. Kelly voted against our right to self-defense in 2016 when she supported an effort to prohibit the lawful carrying of a concealed firearm on college campuses. Kelly has also received the praise of one of the more strident anti-gun/anti-NRA organizations, Moms Demand Action. In Kansas, Kobach is the clear choice for gun owners.
MICHIGAN Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, R, has made it clear that his support for the Second Amendment is unwavering. While serving in the state Senate, Schuette advocated for the expansion of concealed carry and voted for Michigan’s “shall-issue” permit system. He has been a vocal proponent of national Right-to-Carry reciprocity, and while serving as attorney general, has joined in on several legal briefs supporting our right to keep and bear arms. He has truly earned his “A+” rating from NRA-PVF. His opponent on the other hand, former legislator Gretchen Whitmer, D, has consistently been rated an “F” by NRA-PVF. Electing Schuette could not be more important to Second Amendment supporters in Michigan.
NEVADA Attorney General Adam Laxalt, R, is a decorated combat veteran and proudly states his support for our Second Amendment freedoms. When out-of-state anti-gun organizations pumped more than $20 million into Nevada to promote a ballot initiative limiting the rights of law-abiding Nevadan gun owners, Laxalt stood with NRA in opposition. He has also joined several legal briefs supporting our right to keep and bear arms. Laxalt has earned his “A+” rating from NRA-PVF. His opponent, Steve Sisolak, D, has stated his support for banning firearms and has received the endorsement of prominent anti-gun organizations. Nevada’s law-abiding gun owners need to support Laxalt for governor to ensure the future of their firearm freedoms.
TENNESSEE Bill Lee, R, is a Tennessee businessman who beat out a crowded field to win his party’s nomination for governor, and he has earned an “AQ” rating (based solely on questionaire answers) from NRA-PVF.His stated support of permitless carry and expanding the lawful carrying of firearms for personal protection on college campuses shows a true commitment to the right to self-defense. In contrast, his opponent, Karl Dean, D, has publicly stated his opposition to permitless carry and allowing law-abiding students to carry firearms on college campuses. Dean’s “F” rating from the NRA-PVF, and the fact that he has received the stamp of approval from the anti-gun organization Moms Demand Action, should send a clear message to the pro-gun community in the Volunteer State that they should vote for Lee.
WISCONSIN It would be hard to find someone who is more supportive of the Second Amendment than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, R. First elected to his office in 2010, Walker has earned an “A+” rating from NRA-PVF. Under his leadership, numerous bills supporting our right to keep and bear arms and hunting heritage have become law. Of these, Walker is probably most well-known for the successful effort behind Wisconsin’s Right-to-Carry law. This made Wisconsin one of the last two states (along with Illinois) to finally recognize the right to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense. Walker’s opponent, Tony Evers, D, has stated his support for additional restrictions on law-abiding gun owners, including waiting periods and restrictions on private firearm transfers. The pro-Second Amendment community has been well served by Walker as governor, and he deserves their vote.