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In a September campaign TV spot that has gained national attention, Jason Kander assembles a military assault rifle while blindfolded.
Kander, who is Missouri’s secretary of state and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, puts together an AR-15 in 30 seconds. As he assembles the gun, he talks about how his opponent, Republican Roy Blunt, has attacked his record on guns
Kander, a former Army captain, says "In the Army, I learned how to use and respect my rifle." He continues to say, "In the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights," while supporting background checks to keep guns like the AR-15 "out of the hands of terrorists."
Kander was a Missouri state representative for four years, from 2009 to 2012, before he was elected secretary of state.
We wanted to know more about how Kander handled Second Amendment issues as a representative, so we decided to investigate his claim.
We asked Kander’s campaign about his statement, and his staff sent us part of his voting record.
In 2011, Kander voted in favor of a bill that would lower the age — from 23 to 21— at which a person could get a permit to conceal and carry a gun. Kander voted against the bill when the House first debated it, but switched for the final vote. The bill became law.
In 2012, he voted to lower the conceal-and-carry age from 21 to 18 for military members. That bill also became law.
That same year, Kander voted for a resolution that would amend the Missouri Constitution to protect "the right of every citizen to possess, purchase, reload, or manufacture ammunition and any other parts or articles essential to the proper functioning of arms." The resolution died in a Senate committee.
But that’s only part of the story when it comes to Kander and gun legislation.
The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund gave Kander an ‘F’ rating on his advocacy for the Second Amendment for 2016. It provided us with more information about Kander’s voting record.
In 2009, Kander voted against a bill that would extend the Castle Doctrine to renters. The doctrine allows a homeowner to use deadly force against a perceived intruder. The bill also would have lowered the age to get a concealed carry permit and would remove a ban on carrying a gun on a college campus.
Kander voted against the "Business Premises Safety Act" four times – once during each of his terms as a state representative. That bill would have prevented business owners from restricting people from lawfully possessing a firearm in a car on business property.
Both the NRA and incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt, Kander’s opponent, have released ads in response to Kander’s ad, denouncing his claim that he supports the Second Amendment.
What the Supreme Court says about the Second Amendment
So Kander did not support every effort to expand access to guns while serving in the state legislature. That doesn’t mean he is against Second Amendment rights.
In a 2010 landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. City of Chicago that the Second Amendment prohibition against infringement on the right to "keep and bear arms" extends to state and local governments.
But the court has also ruled in the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller that some restrictions on guns are acceptable.
In the Heller decision, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, made clear that while D.C. could not ban handguns, the Second Amendment is "not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
He went on to say that some restrictions, like the prohibition of guns in churches and government buildings, were not affected by the court’s decision. Carrying a concealed weapon is also subject to regulation.
Kander’s votes against expanding access to guns fall within the Supreme Court’s definition of allowable regulation of the Second Amendment.
He has never proposed, or voted for, a bill that would repeal the Second Amendment or flout the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the amendment, our review found.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law and well-known constitutional law expert, said in an email that analysis of Kander’s stance on the Second Amendment depends on two questions:
"Does one believe that the Second Amendment protects a right to have guns?" and "Are particular regulations of guns desirable?"
"Even if one believes in the Second Amendment right to have guns, that does not mean that every law to allow more access to guns should be regarded as a good thing," he said. "Someone could believe in the Second Amendment, but still support some restrictions on guns."
Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in constitutional law, agreed.
"The Supreme Court has only said that the right protects the right to have a handgun in the home," he said in an email. "So long as he did not vote to deny law-abiding people that right, then he can reasonably claim to be a supporter of the right to bear arms."
In a TV ad, Kander said, "In the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights."
As a state representative, Kander voted in favor of two bills, which are now law, that would lower the age for someone to conceal and carry a weapon. On the other hand, he also voted against several bills that would reduce regulations on guns.
In short, his gun record is nuanced.
Further, experts cautioned us not to draw a straight line between votes and gun legislation and support for the Second Amendment. It is possible to support the Second Amendment and favor some regulation on guns.
Even though he sometimes voted against bills to expand access to guns, it is fair for Kander to say he supported the Second Amendment as a legislator.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
We rate Kander’s claim Mostly True.
Jason Kander campaign ad, Background Checks, Sept. 15, 2016
Roy Blunt campaign ad, Only One, Sept. 20, 2016
Email exchange with Amy Hunter, NRA media liaison, Sept. 22, 2016
Email interview with Erwin Chemerinsky, Sept. 26, 2016
Email interview with Adam Winkler, Sept. 26, 2016
Email exchange with Anne Feldman, press secretary for Jason Kander, Sept. 27, 2016
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