Will the Real Romney Please Stand Up?

As he travels through the South—contemplating a run for the presidency—Mitt Romney sounds like the modern-day incarnation of John Wayne.

He tells shooters how he used to hunt rabbits as a boy. He visits with attendees at gun shows, impressing them with his knowledge of the Bill of Rights. He quotes the “right to keep and bear arms” language from memory and assures gun owners he’s on their side.

But wait, isn’t this the same Mitt Romney—the former governor of Massachusetts—who boasted that his view on firearms was “not going to make me the hero” of the gun lobby?

In fact, it is one and the same man. So what happened to the candidate who promised that he would not lift a finger to “chip away” at the gun laws in Massachusetts—a state that has some of the most draconian gun restrictions in the union?

When Romney ran for Senate in 1994, he told the Boston Herald that he supported the Brady gun-control law and a ban on scores of semi-automatic firearms. Both laws were heavily supported by Democrats and—according to President Bill Clinton—were the reason that his party lost control of the Congress in 1994.

Ten years later, the federal ban on semi-automatic firearms was stripped from the law books. The banned guns became legal once again, and despite the Chicken Little cries from gun control advocates around the country, crime rates did not soar.

This should not be surprising. After the semi-auto ban expired in 2004, the Congressional Research Service admitted there was no evidence to support the notion that the ban had actually reduced crime, especially since—and here’s a great admission—the “banned weapons and magazines were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders” before the ban was implemented.

Likewise, the Brady gun control law has done nothing to curb crime, as was reported in one of the nation’s leading anti-gun medical publications, the Journal of the American Medical Association. The journal definitively stated in 2000 that the Brady law has failed to reduce “homicide rates and overall suicide rates” in states after they were required to impose waiting periods and background checks.

But despite the failure of these gun laws, Romney did not back off his support for gun control during his run for governor in 2002.

“We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them,” he said during a gubernatorial debate with Democratic candidate Shannon O’Brien. “I won’t chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety.”

Perhaps Mr. Romney knows something that the criminologists don’t know—the criminologists who have actually studied these issues and have reported that gun control has failed to make people safer.

What we do know is that even in Massachusetts, Romney has tried to appease both sides of the aisle. As governor, Romney supported legislation to ease restrictions on gun licensing in the state, but he only did so at the expense of gun rights, as he signed a draconian ban on common, household firearms that are owned by millions of Americans across the nation.

This is kind of like the thief who sticks a gun in your ribs and demands $100, but then gives you $25 back to “soften” the blow.

Seeing that Mr. Romney likes to frequent both sides of the legislative aisle, Americans are going to want to know where he really stands on issues that are important to them. And when they go to polls next year, voters are going to be asking, “Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?”