Presidential candidates on the Second Amendment:

If you take Second Amendment issues into account when deciding whom to support, or if you simply are interested how the candidates will likely fare with an important bloc of voters, here's a preliminary assessment of some of the people who have been listed as likely or definite candidates. As much as possible, the ratings are based on actions while in government, rather than on current rhetoric. Of course the list can also be read in reverse order, to assess the probable allegience of voters who are very strong gun control advocates. These rankings are subject to revision, as additional information is acquired.

Top tier. Nearly perfect pro-Second Amendment records: Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-Vir.). Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.).

Very good. Not a perfect record, but still a very positive one overall. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-Wisc.). Former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).

Mixed: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)(mostly positive record, except for lead sponsorship of two terrible bills: McCain-Lieberman, a badly-written bill which would have given the BATFE the authority to administratively eliminate any or all gun shows, and McCain-Feingold, the campaign speech restriction law which significantly affects right-to-arms groups).

Poor: Former Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.). Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.). As noted by, inter alia, the Boston Globe, Romney's flip-flops on guns are part of a larger record of inconsistency.

Almost perfect anti-Second Amendment record: Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Former Vice-President Al Gore (in Congress, a nearly perfect pro-gun record until 1989, when he switched sides). Al Sharpton (D-N.Y.).

Record of anti-Second Amendment leadership: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.)(very effective in pushing gun control during his tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman). Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa). Former Mayor Rudy Guliani (R-N.Y.)(even worse than his predecessor, Democrat David Dinkins; indeed, based on his record, arguably worse than Sen. Clinton).

I don't know: Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska). He has been out of Congress for 25 years, and I don't know his voting record from his 1969-81 Senate terms. Given that he represented Alaska, and that he was (and is) a fervent populist, I would be surprised if he had a record of support for gun control.

In the comments, please focus on information to make these rankings more precise, rather than arguing the pro/con merits of the Second Amendment or gun control.

One final note: It's nearly impossible to rate the candidates overall on "civil liberties," since the ranking would depend on the relative importance that one gives to, say, property rights vs. privacy rights vs. abortion rights vs. speech rights. But Rep. Ron Paul, as a libertarian, would have to rank pretty high. Conversely, one would have to be concerned about Mayor Giuliani's record as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which includes a number of highly-publicized, reputation-destroying white collar criminal prosecutions which were later overturned in appeal, in part because of prosecutorial over-reaching. One would also have to be concerned that Gov. Romney has enlisted the fund-raising talents of Mel Sembler, the entrepreneur who created a highly profitable chain of teenage drug "treatment" programs which have been been successfully sued for false imprisonment, assault, and other forms of child abuse.