Those who don’t know New York state, as opposed to “the city that never sleeps,” might be surprised to learn that U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) old House district (NY 20) is mostly a bucolic mix of rolling hardwood hills and small towns separated by apple orchards, cornfields and horse farms. There are urban areas, too. To win in such an upstate New York district, it helps if a politician goes to the county fair and is seen eating apple pie as they embrace the rest of what is traditionally American, especially our right to bear arms.
Gillibrand did just that when she ran for a seat in Congress in 2006. She was a then-unknown politician. What was known in the 1990s was she had been a defense attorney for the tobacco company Philip Morris. Gillibrand even defended Philip Morris’ executives in a criminal investigation probing whether they’d committed perjury when they testified to Congress they had no knowledge of a connection between smoking and cancer.
Though she tried to be what people in the 20th Congressional District wanted, she was behind in the polls in 2006 until reports that her opponent had beaten his wife made news right before the election. Gillibrand won. To keep her seat, she said she was a staunch believer in Second-Amendment-protected rights. She even sent the NRA a gushing letter in 2008.
This pro-freedom stance would soon become inconvenient for Gillibrand.
After Hillary Clinton vacated her U.S. Senate seat in 2008 to become U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration, Gillibrand was appointed by the governor of New York to fill the seat. Gillibrand would later win a statewide election for the seat in 2010. It was during this point that her position on our freedom began to flip—though she might say “evolve.”
Now, as she is running to be president of the United States, she has made an about-face on Second Amendment rights and many other issues. That might not be surprising from a New York politician, but her gall certainly is.
“I think the most outrageous thing that has happened to our democracy is how much fear and division and hate has been spread,” said Gillibrand, at a recent Fox News town-hall-style event. “I think the NRA is the worst organization in this country for doing exactly that. They care more about their profits than the American people.”
The NRA was quick to point out this was no small policy shift for the junior senator from New York. The NRA in June released then-Rep. Gillibrand’s 2008 letter to the NRA. In the letter Gillibrand said, “I appreciate the work that the NRA does to protect gun owners rights and I look forward to working with you for many years in Congress.”
Back in 2008 Gillibrand also wrote: “To begin with, I want to be very clear that I always have and always will believe that the correct interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is that it applies to an individual’s right to carry guns … . On the question of outright banning of certain firearms for cosmetic features, bullets of any random size, or banning magazines holding an arbitrary number of cartridges, I am adamantly opposed and do not believe that laws should be based on random limits just for the sake of limiting gun ownership or usage.”
Gillibrand’s adamant beliefs were only opportunistic. She now says, though in 2008 she was an experienced congresswoman and previously had been an attorney representing Phillip Morris, that she just didn’t understand American freedom. Now she thinks you and your rights are to blame for the actions of murderers. Now she adamantly thinks your civil-liberties organization, the NRA, is the “worst organization in the country.”
As anyone can plainly see it is hard to judge what Gillibrand really thinks now and what she might have really thought in 2008. The 2020 election is sure shaping up to be a referendum on our freedom.