Although sixty percent of Americans believe that laws governing the sale of firearms should be made more strict, Erik Paulsen and his fellow right-wing Republicans refuse to vote for sensible laws designed to prevent gun violence because they fear alienating their primary voters and the National Rifle Association. The NRA has repeatedly demonstrated it is willing to spend vast amounts of money supporting politicians who vote against gun safety laws, and to run opposition ads against those who would defy its agenda. A couple of weeks ago, McClatchy DC Bureau reported that the FBI is investigating whether Russian money went to the NRA to help Trump’s election; it appears that the NRA spent $30 million to support Trump. Just as startling, the McClatchy article noted that the NRA also spent an additional $40 million supporting other politicians in the 2016 election. Erik Paulsen is one of them. He has been receiving money from the NRA and pandering to its interests for years.
According to the Washington Post, Paulsen received over $20,000 from the NRA since he’s been in the U.S. Congress and in 2016, the NRA endorsed Erik Paulsen with a 93% approval rating. If you look at Paulsen’s votes over his time in Congress, it's easy to see why he’s such an NRA favorite. In 2009, he voted to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from making any law restricting the possession of firearms or enforcing any such restrictions other than a state's pre-existing gun laws in the National Park or National Wildlife Refuge Systems.
In 2010, he voted in favor of a bill that authorizes a debtor in bankruptcy to exempt firearms from the property of his estate, thus permitting people in bankruptcy to keep their guns, up to a value of $3,000. For background, most deer hunting rifles cost less than $1,000, a decent 12 gauge shotgun is about $500 and 9mm pistols run about $400. Three thousand dollars worth of guns is a lot guns. Is it good public policy to give a preference to the possession of firearms in bankruptcy? Do we really want to encourage gun ownership by people who are broke and more likely than not under a lot of stress and emotional turmoil?
In 2011, Paulsen voted to require states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by another state. In 2014, he voted to prohibit the use of funds by the District of Columbia to prevent individuals from possessing, using, or transporting a firearm. In 2016, a week after the infamous Orlando nightclub mass shooting that left 49 people dead, Paulsen voted with other Republicans in the House to prevent any debate about a bill to ban firearm sales to people on terrorist watch lists.
Not surprisingly, in 2017, after Trump was elected and Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, the NRA and Republicans stepped up their game opposing any reasonable form of gun control. Paulsen voted to disapprove a rule submitted by the Social Security Administration that would have restricted gun purchases by individuals who have been deemed to be so mentally incompetent that they are incapable of managing their federal benefit payments. Then he voted for a bill that authorizes veterans deemed mentally incompetent to buy firearms unless there has been a specific finding by a court that the individual is dangerous to themselves or others. And in December, Paulsen voted for a bill that authorizes individuals who hold concealed carry permits to carry concealed firearms in any state which authorizes concealed-carry and overrides the federal law concerning the concealed-carry of a firearm into a school zone or onto federally owned property that is open to the public.
Taken together, Paulsen’s votes clearly demonstrate he is in favor of gun ownership by virtually anyone, including the mentally incompetent and even those who we won’t let on airplanes because they’re on terrorist watch lists. He also wants all those people to be able to carry concealed weapons around in public and across state lines at will. We don’t think his support for the NRA’s agenda reflects the views and values of the majority of voters in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District. In a January 2016 poll conducted by the MInneapolis Star Tribune, a plurality of the respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of the National Rifle Association and 82% supported a criminal background check on all gun sales, including those sold privately or at gun sales. The poll didn’t ask the question but we’re betting a majority would have supported restricting the sale of guns to the mentally incompetent and people on a “No-Fly” list as well. But Paulsen doesn’t care about his constituents’ views. That’s not who he gets his campaign donations from. In the last election, he got 75% of his donations from out-of-state PACs and out-of-district individuals.
Where is Paulsen in the cartoon above? Fourth from the right.
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Minnesotans for Real Representation is a grassroots organization in Minnesota's Third District with the goal of replacing Erik Paulsen in 2018.