The National Rifle Association is the main arm of the gun rights lobby in America. So for Democrats who support stricter gun laws, a bad grade from the NRA is a badge of honor. But the Democrats at Tuesday night's debate actually have a mixed record when it comes to guns — and their varied grades show as much.
Here are the candidates' most recent NRA grades, based on the last election they ran in:
- Hillary Clinton: F
- Bernie Sanders: D-minus
- Martin O'Malley: F
- Lincoln Chafee: F
- Jim Webb: A
What's interesting in these rankings is that most of the Democrats on stage are actually more liberal on guns, based on the NRA's scores, than the self-described "democratic socialist" onstage. As I previously explained, that reflects Sanders's roots in a largely rural state, which has a strong gun culture. So when guns come up, Sanders sounds less like the idealist he's loved as and more like the pragmatist his state's electorate pushes him to be.