“Tim Walz. He works for us.” – the NRA (see video below)
Tim Walz was a strong supporter of Republican/NRA gun policy from the beginning of his political career. There wasn’t a moment that he wavered in his support for access to assault style weapons such as those used to kill 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School last week, or large magazines and other enhancements that were used in several of the 52 spree killings that occurred during Walz’s political career. His sudden realization that assault rifles are bad and that we have to address our gun problem can only be seen as a craven attempt to garner votes in an election that has attracted the interest of a growing and increasingly better informed progressive electorate.
On April 21st, 2005, sixteen year old Jeff Weise shot police sergeant Daryl Lussier – his grandfather – two times in the head and ten times in the chest. He retrieved Lussier’s Glock handgun and his 12 guage shotgun, a bullet proof vest, and a stash of ammo. Sergeant Lussier’s girlfriend appeared on the scene unexpectedly, so Jeff shot her to death as well.
Jeff Weise then took Sergeant Lussier’s squad car to Red Lake Senior High, where Weise had been a student just a few months earlier. The school had a metal detector staffed by two security guards. Weise killed one of them and chased off the other, then entered the school.
By the end of the spree shooting, Jeff Weise had killed six students, a teacher, the security guard, the police sergeant and his girlfriend. He also killed himself.
Around the same time, Tim Walz started his campaign for a seat in the United States House of Representatives, representing Minnesota’s First Congressional District. He was elected in 2006, and has served in the years since.
Including the Red Lake Massacre, there were eleven notable gun massacres just prior to and during Walz’s first term in Congress. Mass shootings in Red Lake, Minnesota; Goleta, California; Seattle, Washington; Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Salt Lake City, Utah; Blacksburg, Virginia; Crandon, Wisconsin; Omaha, Nebraska; Kirkwwood, Missouri; DeKalb, Illinois; and Henderson, Kentucky took a total of 101 lives and left 68 additional people wounded. Three of them were school shootings, including the horrific Virginia Tech massacre.
During the same year, Walz took $5,000 in four separate contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and co-sponsored an NRA-backed bill banning gun registration and trigger lock requirements in Washington DC.
The Mankato Free Press, a paper published in Walz’s Congressional District, noted that Walz was happy to see the Supreme Court uphold a lower court decision that overthrew restrictive gun laws in Washington, DC. Walz said, “Gun ownership is a basic right in America, not to be infringed upon by anyone or any government entity. [The decision] is a victory that gun-owners, hunters, sportsmen and everyday Americans waited too long for.”
Also in 2008, Walz voted with Republicans to pre-empt Washington DC’s gun safety laws requiring trigger locks and to repeal their ban on semiautomatic weapons.
The NRA announced that they were happy about Walz’s “…unwavering pro-gun support,” which earned him an “A” rating from the NRA, and an endorsement for his campaign. “Tim Walz believes in southern Minnesota values, and will continue to be a true and consistent friend in the U.S. House of Representatives. I encourage all gun-owners and NRA members to re-elect Tim Walz to the U.S. Congress,” the NRA Executive Director, Chris Cox said.
The southern tier of Minnesota, where Walz’s district lies, is one of the most conservative regions in the country, and Walz was doing a very good job representing the folks who live there, who would later vote overwhelming for Donald Trump.
Make no mistake about it. The lax gun laws LaPierre and the NRA have pushed for years are largely responsible for the massive number of gun deaths that are so outrageously common in our country today.
By the end of his first term, Congressman Tim Walz was a solid supporter of the NRA, was taking their money regularly, and paid the NRA back with votes against efforts to address the nation’s growing gun problem.
During Walz’s second term, there were 15 mass gun killings, with 138 dead and 132 wounded. This included a shooting in Binghamton, NY were 14 people were killed at an American Civic Association center for immigrants meeting, the notorius rampage by Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood Texas (14 killed), the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (6 killed, 13 wounded in that spree), and the Dark Night Rises movie theater massacre (12 killed, 780 wounded).
The month after his fellow House member Giffords was shot in the head, Walz cosponsored with Republicans and NRA-backed bill to force states to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by any other state, even if their requirements are not the same.
The very last shooting during this period was in Newtown Connecticut, when Adam Lanza killed his own mother, then drove to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed 20 children and six adults, then himself.
Sandy Hook was a watershed moment in American politics; It was the day many got off the fence and became either a staunch opponent of what seemed like unfettered access to guns and ammo of all type, or a full throated supporter of NRA and Republican policy.
Walz went with the NRA and against the children of Sandy Hook Elementary and their families. The high powered weaponry Lanza used to blast apart the bodies of 20 small children were legally owned and protected by Tim Walz and his fellow gun industry supporters in Congress.
During that term, Walz voted with Republicans to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from promulgating or enforcing any regulations restricting guns in the National Park or National Wildlife Refuge Systems. He also voted to exempt guns from being taken as a result of bankruptcy proceedings.
During this same period he received just shy of $10,000 in contributions from the NRA across 6 donations, and once again earned the NRA’s endorsement as a “solidly pro-gun candidate.”
A mere 48 people were murdered in mass killing sprees during Walz’s next 2-year term, distributed across 8 events (40 wounded). Walz voted with Republicans yet again to pre-empt local control and override further attempts by Washington, DC to enforce their own gun-safety laws, preventing them from using any funds to enforce The Firearms Registration Amendment Act of 2008; The Firearms Amendment Act of 2012; or The Administrative Disposition for Weapons Offenses Amendment Act of 2012. He was endorsed by the NRA again and received three donations from them, totaling $3,000.
Walz’s next term saw 117 dead and 126 wounded across 13 mass shootings. This included the horrific Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charlestown, South Carolina, one mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood, the infamous San Bernadino massacre, and the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting, which alone killed and wounded 102 people, most of them members of the LGBTQ community.
Near the end of this period, Walz was interviewed on The Uptake, a local independent news show. In that interview, he said that we should not ban assault style weapons or high capacity magazines containing in excess of 50 rounds of ammunition.
Unsurprisingly, Walz was rewarded for his stalwart gun industry support with an NRA endorsement and $2,000 from the NRA. He also recieved $5,000 from the National Shooting Sports foundation, the front group for 8,000 gun manufacturers and dealers, and $2,000 form the Safari Club International.
During Walz’s present term, certain things changed. In less time on the calendar, a record 572 pepole were shot in mass shootings. The death count from these was 106. Since the most recent shooting was just a few days ago, these numbers are subject to change. One of this term’s shootings was the Las Vegas Strip Massacre, and another the recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, in the bucolic Parkland Florida.
Earlier in the term, Walz voted with Republicans to override president Obama’s rule restricting gun purchases by individuals who have been deemed incapable of managing their federal benefit payments. He also voted with Republicans to pass a bill that authorizes veterans deemed mentally incompetent to buy firearms, unless they are found by a judge to be dangerous to themselves or others. Suicide is at epidemic proportions among veterans, and the preferred method is by firearm, which is why many former top generals objected to this vote.
During the 4,700 days (12 years and 10 months) since the Red Lake Massacre, which occurred just as Tim Walz was starting his political carer, over 500 people have been killed and over 1,300 wounded in mass killings. During the same period, over 300,000 Americans have died of gunshot wounds, mostly from suicide, with criminal homicide next in line as a cause. A large number of those suicides and plenty of the homicides (which are often domestic abuse related) were made possible or made deadly because of the prevelance of more than 300 million guns in America and the dearth of regulations requiring guns to be safer, better secured, and accounted for.
During this same period, Congressman Tim Walz has recieved just under $28,000 in donations from gun industry groups, mainly the NRA. He has had a continuous endorsement by the gun lobby, and while he has voted in favor of background checks on numerous occasions, he has voted with Republicans to keep assault style weapons and high capacity magazines available to killers, to minimize the control of gun ownership where it really needs to be controlled, and to put a stop to local governments trying to get a handle on their own waves of killing by adopting sensible legislation.
Over the last few days, Walz has changed his mind on guns, now supporting legislation he has voted against numerous times in the past. Why? I assume that he was a full on NRA A-rated gun-supporter during the time that he represented a district where a large percentage of the voters were very conservative rural farmers. During the last election in that district, however, those farmers turned on Walz. He lost in most, possibly all, of the precincts that were mainly farm based, and was re-elected to his seat only barely, and with the votes of two academic and medically oriented communities in the region (Mankato State and the Rochester/Mayo medical community).
When Walz turned away from his district (which was about to turn away from him) to run for Governor of Minnesota, he made the claim that he was a true progressive who would never turn away from progressive values. However, at no time during Walz’s early foray into statewide politics did he eschew deadly assault weapons and high capacity cartridges, or turn away from his NRA support. He was never a progressive on firearms, or on most environmental issues either. He voted against EPA regulation protecting water in farmlands. He voted in favor of mining and pipeline construction that state wide progressives were against. Many of us have watched in dismay as many actual progressive voters chose to support Walz early in his campaign on the ground that he said he was a true progressive. But over time, Walz’s record has become more widely known, and this early support has recently begun to fall away.
When the news of Parkland shocked this nation, hundreds, possibly thousands, of activist Minnesotans with the DFL (Democratic Party), Indivisible, and other groups, raised their voices against the politicians in Washington who supported guns. Then, over the subsequent few days, those same concerned activist started to realize that their own guy, Tim Walz, was one of the people that had caused this problem, as a full-on NRA and gun lobby supporter.
It was only then, as Walz started to see his position in the top tier of candidates for Governor of Minnesota slip away, that he turned on his NRA keepers. Under pressure from other governor candidates after the Las Vegas mass shooting, Walz said he would give back the money he got from the NRA. Then after more pressure from his opponents after Parkland, he said he would support an assault rifle ban, celebrating this about-face by claiming “the world’s changed.”
The only thing that’s change in this sordid history of mass murder is that Tim Walz is now running for governor. And presumably because he was not pressured to return the other $9,000 he took in gun industry money from groups besides the NRA, he didn’t pledge to give that back. Yet.
Another change that corresponds almost exactly with Walz’s change in heart over guns is a shift in voter preference. According to a Feb 20th Quinnipiac poll,
American voters support stricter gun laws 66 – 31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, with 50 – 44 percent support among gun owners and 62 – 35 percent support from white voters with no college degree and 58 – 38 percent support among white men.
Today’s result is up from a negative 47 – 50 percent measure of support in a December 23, 2015, survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll.
One could congratulate Congressman Walz for changing his stance on an issue in deference to his constituents. But in my view, a dozen years of strict adherence to a particular position that is so closely associated with danger to our society is not something a politician is allowed to suddenly walk away from.
Voters will have to decide if this is too little too late.
Here is a Walz campaign ad from an earlier election.