Risk, Rights and Republicans: Regulating Firearms

While we struggle to cope with another mass shooting, this time in San Bernadino, when the 14 innocent victims aren’t yet buried, every Senate Republican except Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against a law that would have prevented people on the F.B.I.’s consolidated terrorist watchlist from purchasing guns or explosives. These are the same Republicans, mind you, who want to keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S. because there might be terrorists among them.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R, NRA), the newly annointed Speaker of the House, was tasked with explaining the Senate’s action. This is what he came up with: “I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list.” Speaker Ryan is stating that his Senate Republican colleagues are more worried about the possibility that someone might be turned away from a gun shop than shielding the public against terrorists. The explanation makes no sense. And it sharply contradicts the Republicans’ policy positions and relentless bashing of the President for not being touch enough on terrorists.

On the one hand, we have the risk of the kind of domestic and foreign terrorism the United States has experienced, ranging from horrible instances like San Bernadino to the nightmares of 9/11. Those risks are real, deadly and devastating. On the other side is the risk that a person might be inconvenienced by not having access to firearms and explosives because they are improperly on the FBI’s consolidated terrorist watchlist. If you think that those risks remotely balance, WC has a great deal for you on the Cushman Street Bridge. If you think that any of the Republican Senators appropriately evaluated and assessed the competing risks, WC suggests you fold the Second Amendment until it is all corners and shove it . . . well, put in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

WC suggests there is an easier, more plausible explanation for the Senate vote: Those Republican senators have been bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association. Here are ten of the Republican senators with the highest purchase prices campaign contributions from for 2014.

Senator Purchase Price Campaign Contribution
Senator Dean Heller (R, Nevada) $42,247
Senator John Barrasso (R, Wyoming) $26,349
Presidential Wannabe Ted Cruz (R, Texas) $24,929
Senator Roy Blunt (R, Missouri) $23,435
Senator Roger Wicker (R, Mississippi) $21,350
Senator Rob Portman (R, Ohio) $19,900
Senator Mitch McConnell (R, Kentucky) $18,900
Senator James Risch (R, Idaho) $18,850
Senator Richard Burr (R, North Carolina) $16,900
Senator James Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) $16,400

(Alaska’s own Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, Duplicity) has a laughably low purchase price campaign contribution of of $10,058. Data isn’t yet available for Senator Dan Sullivan (R, Koch).)

Chief Justice John Roberts, in the Citizens United opinion, claimed there was no evidence that big campaign contributions would improperly influence legislators. WC respectfully suggests that the Chief Justice may have been mistaken.1 Not for the first and not for the last time.

These Republicans are either too stupid to sensibly evaluate risk or their small, mean souls have been bought – or intimidated – by the gun-toting thugs at the NRA. Feathers or lead? Your choice.


  1. Alaska Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 forbids WC from expressing in detail his opinion of the Chief Justice.