— Joe St. George (@JoeStGeorge) August 20, 2019
Yesterday, Sen. Cory Gardner appeared at a fundraiser featuring former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, after which has was corralled by FOX 31’s Joe St. George for an interview on a variety of topics. Sen. Gardner has a notorious reputation for giving reporters pablum-laden nonanswers to just about every controversial question put to him on any issue–enough to where plenty of reporters have simply given up on trying to get straight answers from Gardner, which for Gardner is a significant victory that insulates him from blowback he should be regularly receiving as the leading Republican in a state rejecting the GOP en masse at the polls in the era of Donald Trump.
Yesterday, though, Joe St. George commendably chose not to take Gardner’s evasive word salad for an answer. Pressing Gardner on camera about support for H.R.8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 back at the fore of debate following recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, St. George captured Gardner at his worst: trashing a popular law that has been on the books in Colorado for six years.
ST. GEORGE: Guns: there’s a new commercial airing on Denver TV today urging you to pass background check legislation. Traditionally you have been opposed to such legislation. Has the shootings in El Paso, Dayton, has President Trump’s words about meaningful background checks, has it changed your mind at all?
GARDNER: This is horrible what’s happening in this country. We can’t accept a status quo where people are committing these kinds of atrocities and we have to stop and work hard to prevent them. And I’m going to continue to work on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do that. But what I’m not going to do…
ST. GEORGE: But what are you where where do you stand on HR8…
GARDNER: What I’m not going to do is make sure that we partisanize this issue and play politics with it. That’s not what the people of this state or this country expect or will accept. And so I’m going to work with anyone who’s interested to protect the rights of people in our community: their constitutional rights, their rights from harm. Whether it’s legislation to protect our schools, legislation that will be introducing in September to provide additional resources to kids to prevent bullying and to detect those who could commit harm to themselves or others. We’re going to continue that work together, but I’m not going to hurt rights in order to protect rights. [Pols emphasis]
ST. GEORGE: Where do you scan an HR8? Have you made up your mind? Why haven’t you?
GARDNER: Well I’m sure there will be hearings in the Senate and we’ll have a conversation about this. What’s important is that we do what’s right by this country, what’s right for the people to protect our communities, to protect our constitutional rights and that’s what I’ll continue to do.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 would require most private sales of guns to be approved via a background check in the same manner that gun sales by licensed dealers are subject to background checks. The law is functionally equivalent to Colorado’s own universal background check law passed in 2013, which has prevented the sale of thousands of weapons to prohibited would-be purchasers. It’s clear from Gardner’s answers under pressure from St. George that he does not consider universal background checks to be constitutional, and that the constitutional right to bear arms supersedes the community’s right to be protected “from harm.”
Given the overwhelming public support for universal background checks, both here in Colorado and nationally polling over 90%, Gardner’s position is extreme by any rational measurement. In fact the only crowd in which you’ll still find serious opposition to universal background checks is the fringe gun lobby in Colorado, whose ideological driving force is Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. As our readers know, Brown not only considers background checks on private gun sales to be unconstitutional, Brown thinks the entire NICS background check system utilized for all other gun purchases is unconstitutional too. After President Trump came out in support of tightening background checks soon after the recent spate of mass shootings, Brown and the “no-compromise” gun lobby set to work undermining him, and in recent days Trump’s short attention span seems to have lighted elsewhere.
What this all leads to is the realization that Cory Gardner, who has benefited tremendously from the support of RMGO and literal millions from the National Rifle Association over his career, remains beholden to the hardcore fringe of the gun debate as a U.S. Senator. A U.S. Senator representing a state that broke with the gun lobby for good after repeated mass shootings six years ago and hasn’t looked back. A state that is now a model for the background check legislation under serious bipartisan consideration.
If Gardner breaks with RMGO, he could lose a primary. But staying this course appears no less politically fatal.