I knew that Marco Rubio was unfit to be President (as if the current Republican candidate could pass a fitness test) when he visited the Ruger gun factory back in January and declared that he believed in the 2nd Amendment because a gun was the only thing that stood between our safety and an imminent ISIS attack. Ruger then presented Rubio with a Hawkeye bolt-action hunting rifle that would be about as effective for defending against a terror attack as me using my pen knife against Godzilla or King Kong.
Rubio’s back on the gun beat again, announcing a bill that would allegedly keep terrorists from getting their hands on guns. Rubio’s bill allows the government, following a Court hearing, to deny the purchase of a gun to anyone who has been the ‘subject of a terrorism investigation’ during the previous ten years. The NSA, for example, tracks millions of electronic communications each year, many of them made by American citizens. Does this activity constitute an ‘investigation’ and, if so, to whom would the NSA turn over all those names?
Be that as it may, the gun issue is now beginning to move downstream to Senate races, and while there has been a lot of talk about how Kelly Ayotte’s refusal to vote for Manchin-Toomey back in 2012 might cost her a reelection in New Hampshire, the truth is that she’s up against a pretty tough competitor in Maggie Hassan, who would give her a run for her money, gun issues or not.
In Missouri, on the other hand, which is truly a gun-rich state, a GOP veteran, Roy Blunt, finds himself in a surprisingly tight race against a relative newcomer, Jason Kander, who has just released what I think is the most original political ad with a gun theme in the entire 2016 campaign. The ad shows Kander, who served in Afghanistan with a National Guard infantry unit, assembling an AR-15 while he’s blindfolded and challenging Blunt to do the same. The ad also makes clear that Kander, as opposed to Blunt, favors an expansion of background checks to secondary sales. The ad is a response to a completely-discredited NRA attack ad against Kander which accused him of voting against a bill that would have made it easier to use a gun against an attacker inside someone’s home, when in fact the actual bill, which Kander supported, expanded the right to use a gun outside the home.
Let’s get something straight. Nobody who is perceived as being anti-gun in Missouri gets elected to anything. That’s just the way things are. But the fact that the NRA has put up more than $650,000 in television ads dissing Kander during this campaign tells you two things: first, it says something about the potency of expanded background checks as a campaign issue not just in Missouri but other states as well; second, it validates Hillary’s decision to ignore warnings about the strength of the ‘gun vote’ in deciding to make gun violence a centerpiece of her campaign.
We won’t know until the votes are counted on November 8th and the exit polls appear whether the blue team has been helped or hurt by coming out so strongly against violence caused by guns. But the fact that in the Gunshine State an incumbent like Marco Rubio in a tight campaign for reelection files a totally meaningless bill to prevent ‘terrorists’ from buying guns is another straw in the wind regarding how the gun issue has come into its own.
Until this year it was assumed that in gun-rich states you had to be pro-gun in order to get to the finish line with any chance of beating the other side. And this is still true to a certain extent. But it’s the word ‘certain’ that may now start to be redefined. And I’m not sure that I would take the short odds on redefining that word in favor of guns.