Will Media Fact Check Romney's Assault Weapons Ban Claim?

During tonight's presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney echoed a false claim from the National Rifle Association's radio show Cam & Company that whitewashes the former Massachusetts governor's record on guns.

News outlets will surely report on what was a contentious exchange between candidates on an issue that has thus far been ignored in the presidential race. But will they get to the bottom of Romney's past support for gun violence prevention measures?

Romney echoed the NRA talking point that an assault weapons ban he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts was agreeable to that state's leading gun advocacy group after moderator Candy Crowley suggested that his position on assault weapons has changed in recent years.

CROWLEY: Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that given the kind of violence we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you've changed your mind?

ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually in my state the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had -- at the signing of the bill both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.  

The NRA has endorsed Romney and recently used its NRA News radio outlet to rewrite history in an attempt to hide Romney's past support for tough gun control measures.

During the October 2 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards told viewers that Romney's gun policy while governor was in line with the positions of Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), the Massachusetts state gun advocacy group. Edwards also claimed that Romney loosened restrictions on assault weapons while governor instead of enhancing them. Neither claim is accurate.

In July 2004, then-Governor Romney signed legislation into law that made Massachusetts' assault weapons ban permanent and not reliant on a federal ban that expired at the end of 2004. The state issued a press release at the time, in which Romney described assault weapons as “instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”

GOAL fired back with its own press release titled, “Firearm Reform Bill Signed, Romney Takes Opportunity to Betray Gun Owners.” The organization was especially irked that, “When asked by a reporter if he supported the renewal of the federal 'assault weapons' ban and if he had spoken to the senators about it, Governor Romney replied that it was not really his job to lobby on federal legislation, but that he shared Senator Kerry's and Senator Kennedy's position on the issue!”