A man who was not even known as a gun collector amassed an arsenal that all experts agree included illegal fully automatic weapons. He carried out an act of carnage, alone and using only those weapons, that exceeded in casualty count almost every military battle fought in recent decades by American troops, and that equaled or surpassed all but a very small number of terrorist attacks.
He shot five hundred people.
He shot these people, killing nearly 60 of them, with guns he was able to get because he lives in America. In America, the Second Amendment has protected gun ownership for so long and so irrationally that, even though the worst killing machines are sort of, kinda, a little, illegal, you can still get them.
Guns are the only toys protected by a Constitutional amendment. Gun ownership is a deadly pasttime that is protected by Congress. Even though the CDC and other government agencies, and the concomitant experts, believe that guns are a major public health risk, Congress has legislated against the distribution of research funds one might use to study this problem. And, generally, Congress has been the lapdog of the National Rifle Association, which is a lobbyist organization representing gun and ammo manufacturers disguised as an interest group supporting guns as toys for men and women, but mostly men, across the country.
Why Tim Walz Is Not Viable as a DFL Gubernatorial Candidate
First, let me say that I would normally argue that it is too early to make strong statements against a fellow DFLer (Democratic Party) who is running for office. But what happened last night in Las Vegas has changed all that, and I have to speak out, and strongly so. I am very unhappy about this situation. Here's the story.
As I was poking around to find out how various members of Congress and future candidates for re-election had voted on guns, in pursuit of writing about Las Vegas. I was shocked and deeply disturbed to find that Congressman Tim Walz, who currently represents Minnesota's 1st District and is now running for the Democratic Party's endorsement for Governor, is one of those questionable members of Congress. I had seen Walz speak at a recent forum. Members of a gun-control group were there and they asked the first questions. They asked about various bills and they asked about silencers, an issue that has come up recently in the Minnesota legislature.
I was utterly confused by Congressman Walz's response to these questions. At no point did he lay down a position. He seemed to take more than one position at a time. He mentioned he was a veteran and a hunter several times, but he also mentioned that we have to be sensible about guns. But he wasn't able to articulate a position that I could understand, and I've been following and writing about gun issues for years. I left that forum not knowing what his position on guns was, but feeling like I had been somehow conned. In fact, I felt like I needed a shower after that set of answers, and I honestly can't explain exactly why. I did check my wallet on the way out the door, though.
Anyway, I have now looked into it. Walz is, essentially, a Republican when it comes to guns. He supports conceal carry. He supported a bill that allowed the registration and position of weapons that are normally illegal, by a privileged group. He supported the ban by Congress of the Washington DC law that included sensible trigger lock provisions, disallowed semiautomatic weapons, and provided for stricter registration He opposed legislation what would limit access to guns by people with questionable mental competence. And, I think he said, silencers should be legal, but again, I'm not sure.
Walz was actually a co-sponser of HR420, the Veterans Heritage Firearms act. This basically allowed veterans or people related to veterans (i.e., a LOT of people) to keep and register firearms that would normally be illegal, as long as they had stolen the gun off a dead enemy. Or otherwise acquired it while "overseas."
The act of Congress disallowing Washington DC to regulate its own guns was HR 1399 was also co-Sponsored by Walz. Congress allowed DC to continued to disallow sawed off shotguns, but not semiautomatic weapons.
The mental competence law that Walz supported was HR2547. This bill "Prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, considering any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others."
It seems like Walz is especially concerned with protecting and even expanding beyond normal the gun ownership rights of veterans with mental disabilities, which by definition includes a subset of individuals who really should not be walking around with guns that are not even legal for other people to have.
The other Democratic candidates for Minnesota Governor have very different positions. Walz stands out like a sore thumb among his colleagues. Rebecca Otto wants a science based approach. She noted in a statement following the Las Vegas massacre that Congress has essentially illegalized scientific research on guns and gun safety. Clearly, we have made huge strides in automobile safety, and people generally have the right to drive cars, and far far fewer people are killed because of driving today than would otherwise have been possible without sensible science-based policy. We did not need a Constitutional Amendment protecting driving to make this happen. In fact, the Second Amendment damages our nation's ability to be sensible about gun laws.
Here is, in part, Otto's statement:
What we are doing with gun safety laws is not working. We must study gun violence as a public health issue just as we did motor vehicle safety and our work to reduce motor vehicle deaths. We need to steep our policies in evidence, not rhetoric. Let's collect the evidence and let our scientists study the issue. The NRA has its place, but not at the expense of so many lives. The NRA and their gun lobby stranglehold on D.C. is a perfect example of the Politics of unfettered greed. Time to end the Politics of Greed & return to the Politics of the common good.
Here's the thing: Even Walz can be seen as advocating a sensible approach, if you stand in the back of the room, plug one ear, and kinda squint while he is talking about guns. But he has never voted for sensible change, and when he tries to advocate a mainstream progressive policy, his tongue gets stuck on his trigger and thing go badly. He is pushing himself as a progressive left of center who won't move to the right, but he's been far right on guns all along.