Gun control advocates are convinced that the Florida shooting represents a turning point that the Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings did not, creating a broad, lasting public appetite for more restrictions on private ownership of firearms.
That remains to be seen, but the ground is quickly shifting under Democrats’ feet. Perhaps the most vivid example comes in Minnesota, where Congressman Tim Walz is the early frontrunner in a crowded Democratic field for the gubernatorial nomination. Walz represents the state’s first district, stretching across the bottom of the state, and is mostly rural counties and small towns. Walz earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association five times.
After the Las Vegas shooting, he announced he would return all donations from the National Rifle Association; the organization donated $18,000 to Walz over the course of his career.
Walz announced this week he would release “a series of short videos – six total – in which I talk directly about where I come from and my history with guns, my record on fighting gun violence, the NRA, assault weapons, and my plan for ending gun violence in Minnesota in a way that builds on the common ground that already exists among us.” He wrote an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune asking readers, “Please understand my full record on guns… It’s evolving in some ways, but I’ve always been a reformer.”
He announced this week that he now supports an Assault Weapons Ban.
In the op-ed, he called the NRA “the biggest single obstacle to passing the most basic measures to prevent gun violence in America — including common-sense solutions that the majority of NRA members support.” Some may find that a little disingenuous, considering how Walz accepted a $2,000 donation from the group in the 2016 cycle. The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s PAC also donated another $5,000. The NRA endorsed Walz over a Republican in 2016.
In the op-ed, Walz said he had never been a member of the NRA, but his 2010 reelection campaign featured a video that declared, “Tim Walz is a gun owner. He grew up hunting and spent 24 years in the Army National Guard. Now in Congress, Tim stood up time and time again for the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen. It’s why the NRA gave Tim an ‘A’ rating.”
The video featured audio of Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRAInstitute for Legislative Action, declaring, “the NRA political victory fund is proud to endorse Tim Walz for re-election to
Congress. Tim’s been a strong supporter of our Second Amendment freedom and our hunting heritage.” The video concludes with Walz declaring, “I’m proud to stand with the NRA to protect the rights of sportsmen and gun owners.”
Walz used to make appearances in a camouflage ballcap that said, “Tim Walz NRA Endorsed.”
Walz also wrote in the op-ed:
I’ve repeatedly voted in favor of universal background checks, “no fly, no buy” legislation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding for research into gun violence. I voted against concealed-carry reciprocity. I’m a cosponsor of the bill to ban so-called “bump-stocks” that convert semiautomatic rifles into automatic rifles.
On all those votes, I have been diametrically opposed to the NRA.
That’s not quite true. He voted for concealed carry reciprocity in 2011, and against it in 2017. The NRA does not oppose the ban on bump stocks. Separately, he voted for two efforts to repeal or limit the District of Columbia’s firearms laws, and to exempt guns from an estate under bankruptcy laws.
It also remains to be seen if supporting gun control in Minnesota is a winning position. A 2002 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that Minnesota ranked 18th in the nation in the percentage of households that own a gun, with 44.7 percent.
Minnesota’s primary is not until August 14.