In this column, A1F Daily trains its watchdog eye on The Trace, Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” site.
On Monday, The Trace’s Adam Weinstein took on the entire field of Republican presidential candidates in a feature entitled, “The Big Shift in How 2016 Republican Candidates Talk About Their Personal Guns.” He not only mocks the GOP contenders for expressing their support for the Second Amendment, he “enhances” their positions in the subhead: “What it means when would-be presidents tout their rights to shoot another American in self-defense.”
Apparently, Weinstein attended the Brian Williams School of Journalism.
Writing floridly, Weinstein strains to find something—anything—in the candidates’ positions to justify his apoplexy at their support for the Second Amendment. In his opinion: Apparently, a respect for gun rights is only authentic if you acquired it from your great-grandfather who hunted waterfowl. Anything else has to be borne of an unreasonable fear for your safety.
If you came to an appreciation of firearms later in life, you’re a poser (Gov. Bobby Jindal). In truth, Jindal had no option: He is the son of Indian immigrants, who would have found it difficult to pass on a tradition of firearms ownership.
Twitter trolls have Weinstein’s back (Jindal again). Jindal was photographed holding an AR-15 while visiting Capital Armament in Sibley, Iowa. To back up his claim that “most observers” found Jindal “awkward,” Weinstein included a link to sarcastic comments from opinionated Twitter know-it-alls.
A concealed carry weapon is a “wee revolver with a gratuitous laser sight” (Jindal once more, for good measure). Jindal actually purchased his .38 Smith & Wesson after Hurricane Katrina, when the collapse of government services was so complete that citizens were left defenseless for days. (If you’d like to refresh your memory of how NRA obtained an injunction barring now-jailed mayor Ray Nagin and his police superintendent from collecting legally owned firearms, and forced their return to their owners, read the archived A1F feature here.)
Republican candidates want to “mow down would-be robbers” (Sen. Lindsey Graham). Graham is singled out because he owns a semi-automatic AR-15—the best-selling rifle in America. By extension, Weinstein insults the one in five American rifle purchasers from 2000 to 2010 who chose AR-15s.
Carrying a gun while jogging makes you a Second Amendment “maximalist” who only feels “secure while armed” (Rick Perry). The fact that Perry used his legally owned gun to kill a coyote that was threatening his dog is apparently no excuse for carrying.
And you should have left that to the Texas Rangers, anyway (Perry again). So, candidates should concede all responsibility for the safety of themselves and their family to an armed detail? Actually, Perry deserves kudos for taking on the responsibility, and the possible repercussions, for firing a weapon in the People’s Republic of Austin, Texas, whose leaders have been openly hostile to him.
Weinstein is sure some candidates realize the error of their ways (Sen. Marco Rubio). Weinstein writes that Rubio “almost certainly regrets” owning a “chintzy” Taurus firearm instead of one made in America. Taurus is the manufacturer of such innovative firearms as the immensely popular Judge, capable of firing both .45 cartridges and .410 shot shells, and the Curve, a concealed carry firearm curved to fit more comfortably to the body. Taurus is a Brazilian company, but guns for the U.S. are imported, and manufactured, by Taurus Holdings in Rubio’s home state of Florida. All politics is local.
If you didn’t pick up firearms from your parents, passed down from their parents, you’re pandering (all y’all). Apparently, a respect for gun rights is only authentic if you acquired it from your great-grandfather who hunted waterfowl. Anything else has to be borne of an unreasonable fear for your safety.
Carly Fiorina is mentioned in passing for owning, and being able to use, a Glock 17; Donald Trump is complicit for having a permit to carry either an H&K .45 or a (supposedly “wee”) .38 Smith & Wesson in New York. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is almost deserving of an exception because his rifle was a gift, and he won his shotgun in a raffle, but he’s guilty of talking about them. Interestingly, Sen. Rand Paul is suspicious because he won’t talk about his firearms.
Exactly what is Weinstein worked up about? Since these candidates aren’t talking about, or handling, their firearms inappropriately, could it be he objects to Republican candidates boldly supporting the Second Amendment—an amendment Weinstein just can’t stand?
He’s right that this tilt toward gun rights is certainly dramatic, and partisan; of the GOP candidates with a voting record, all but one have “A” ratings from NRA. But, news flash: This is how politics works. Candidates must appeal to public sensibilities to get elected, and these Republicans are a reflection of an electorate who, according to national polling, increasingly supports gun rights. No image will ever convince us that John Kerry is a pheasant hunter, either. If you’re a gun guy, you’re going to have to open up your gun safe and prove it to us.
Weinstein claims all this talk about GOP guns is unseemly, but candidates are increasingly held to a far higher standard of disclosure than the rest of us. Rightly or wrongly, an incessant national media demands years of tax returns, access to all email communication, educational transcripts, service records and lists of friends, acquaintances and associates going back to high school. Candidates’ commitment to gun rights will not be spared similar scrutiny.
Furthermore, voting gun owners are suspicious of pale expressions of “support for Second Amendment rights.” We don’t believe Obama when he says he won’t take away our guns, and faked photo shoots to make him look like a skeet shooter only make it worse. No image will ever convince us that John Kerry is a pheasant hunter, either. If you’re a gun guy, you’re going to have to open up your gun safe and prove it to us.
Whinestein—er, Weinstein—is wistful for a time when it wasn’t necessary for candidates to front their 2A bona fides. He warns us that, “As a result, our freedom from a particular kind of expanding, activist gun culture becomes ever harder to obtain.” Freedom from political discourse that he finds disagreeable is a myth, of course. But tolerance has never been the strong suit of those whose firm belief in the righteousness of their opinions should go unquestioned.
The ironic fact is that the deluge of attacks on gun rights from people like Weinstein has created the very backlash in defense of civil rights he disparages. In response, a clear and growing majority of the U.S. population is rising up in defense of their firearm freedoms, and they are electing like-minded candidates.
Embrace this field of GOP candidates, Adam. After all, you created them.