Montana Democratic Governor Steve Bullock has had a difficult time deciding where he stands on the Second Amendment. Voters couldn’t be blamed if they developed sudden severe whiplash ahead of November’s U.S. Senate election where he’s trying to unseat Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
Gov. Bullock is attempting to go maverick by voting against the 2020 Democratic party platform. He didn’t suddenly find his Second Amendment North Star, though, to declare his opposition to the party’s gun-grabbing plank.
Party Maverick Except on Guns
The Democratic National Convention wrapped up last week with no shortage of antigun speeches and gun control rallying cries. The party formally nominated Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as their president and vice presidential nominees, solidifying the most antigun ticket in modern history.
The official Democratic party platform was adopted as well and included plenty of gun control. Two paragraphs out of the 80-page platform spelled out the party’s gun-control intentions, which aim to dismantle the entire firearm industry. The platform includes:
– Criminalizing private firearm transfers
– Disrupting interstate commerce by criminalizing online firearm and ammunition sales
– Instituting endless “delay” windows for background checks
– Banning the manufacture and sale of modern sporting rifles
– Banning the manufacture and sale of standard magazines
– Enacting licensing schemes to exercise Second Amendment rights
– Enacting ex parte “red flag” laws to seize guns without legal recourse
– Mandating home storage requirements under penalty of law
– Repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to subject the industry to frivolous lawsuits
Bullock, though, voted against the platform, stating “I’m not going to rubber stamp a platform that was crafted by party leaders.” But his vote wasn’t because of its infringement on the Second Amendment rights of Montanans. Bullock rejected the DNC platform over objections to banning new oil and gas permits on public lands, abolishing the death penalty and “reimagining policing.”
His platform ‘no’ vote wasn’t because he disagreed with the radical antigun ideas. In the Big Sky State, that’s a big deal, and Montana voters can thus assume Gov. Bullock is A-Okay with these gun-grabbing party tenets.
Not His First Gun-Grab Rodeo
The whiplash from Gov. Bullocks’ stance on Second Amendment issues has come to be expected by Montana voters. Just a few years ago, then-Attorney General Bullock voiced his belief that the Second Amendment was a “personal” right and declined to include his state in lawsuits banning modern sporting rifles from personal possession. He termed them “assault weapons” at that time.
More recently, while Gov. Bullock was weighing his own failed-run for the Democratic presidential nomination, he had quite a change of heart. When questioned about his back-and-forth-and-back-again position on confiscation and gun-banning, he tried to clarify, stating “When I view an assault weapons ban, it’s sort of military, semiautomatic, typically removable clips, a magazine of 10 or more — it’s like the AR-15s.”
This is common “scare language” used to describe the same one-shot-per-trigger-pull technology used in any number of semiautomatic handguns, shotguns and rifles.
This last-minute change-of-heart leadership has become a notorious trademark of sorts for Gov. Bullock. He initially waived off the notion to run for the Senate seat until he got a special visit from former President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) who personally recruited and convinced him they needed his help to gain control of the upper chamber.
Gov. Bullock filed his candidacy paperwork just before the buzzer and all but one Democrat considering a run dutifully withdrew to clear his path.
High Stakes in Big Sky Country
Montana voters face a critical decision as they decide who their next senator will be. Sen. Daines has a steadfast belief in the Second Amendment and a track record of voting to uphold that constitutional right. The balance of the Senate may come down to voters’ support for Sen. Daines’ reelection. With Gov. Bullock continuing to muddy the waters on his stance on the Second Amendment, the stakes for Montana, the rest of the country and the firearms and ammunition industry could not be higher.
With 2020 already seeing 5 million new first-time gun owners, the Second Amendment and the ability to possess a firearm to protect oneself and one’s family and property is the key voting issue for millions of Americans this year. According to recent retailer surveys, modern sporting rifles – like those Gov. Bullock and Democrats would ban and confiscate – have been among the most popular firearms purchased this year.
NSSF launched the #GUNVOTE campaign to make sure voters are educated and informed about the Second Amendment and the positions of candidates for whom they will vote in November. This will be critical for Montana voters considering whether they will send Sen. Daines back to Washington, D.C. to protect their Second Amendment rights, or Gov. Bullock who may be the deciding vote to infringe on their rights.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.