Daines, Zinke decry president’s “unconstitutional gun grab”

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–MT) grabs a gun constitutionally.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–MT) grabs a gun constitutionally.

You don’t need to print the American flag on an AR-15. If you’re holding one—indoors, with your finger on the trigger, as former Navy SEAL and current representative from Montana Ryan Zinke is well trained to do above—people will know you’re American. Guns are an essential part of the American experiment. They’re what separated us from Britain in the 18th century, and they’re what separates a new generation of Americans from their faces in the 21st. The Second Amendment guarantees that we all get as many as we want. And despite juridical and popular disagreement over what the authors of the Constitution meant by “well-regulated militia,” I think we can agree it’s unconstitutional to regulate guns at all.

That’s why the Republicans in Montana’s congressional delegation cried tyranny against President Obama last week. Here’s Sen. Steve Daines on the president’s executive action:

President Obama is jeopardizing the Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans with his latest efforts to undermine the Second Amendment. It is a gross abuse of executive authority for the President to unilaterally move forward his ineffective, anti-gun agenda with the stroke of his pen. As Montana’s voice in the United States Senate, I will continue to fight against President Obama’s endless assault on Montanans’ Second Amendment rights.

An endless assault on our rights! An ineffective abuse of authority! It’s pretty hot, but it’s tepid compared to Rep. Zinke’s statement. Saying the president’s actions were “no surprise given his tyrannical record,” the freshman representative added:

I challenge this president to stand up and face the biggest threat to America’s safety: radical Islamic terrorism. Rather than allow terrorists to come to our shores and kill our neighbors, President Obama must fight back and destroy ISIS at their base. Rather than drop pamphlets warning ISIS to flee before we strike, America must strike with resolve and destroy the threat.

His position on gun control is remarkably similar to his position on global warming, but that’s a subject for another day. What’s important today is the abuse of authority, the assault on our rights that allows terrorists to kill our neighbors. Behold, the president’s tyrannical plan:

  1. Require background checks for firearm sales at gun shows.
  2. Invest in mental health care and make mental health information available to the background check system.
  3. Sponsor research in gun safety technology.

That’s pretty much it. For anyone who read Daines’s and Zinke’s statements first, the facts of Obama’s executive action are a huge letdown. For example, the phrase “unconstitutional gun grab” implies at least some confiscation of guns. “Abuse of power” led me to believe he would alter existing laws, or maybe re-interpret them in tenuous ways, W. Bush-style. But nope: he’s adding money and personnel to the background check system, incorporating it in gun shows and on the internet, and including information about mental health most of us thought was in there anyway.

It’s times like this when I wonder about the functional difference between Commander Zinke, Senator Daines, and your average Facebook commenter. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, which is some old-school, close-reading, words matter, angry-at-rhetoric shit. I know most people don’t get as upset about loose talk as I do. But in this case you should, because between them, Sen. Daines and Rep. Zinke have sponsored a grand total of one bill that became law. Talking is pretty much all they do, and they should do it more carefully. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.


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  1. On blast!

    “Statements like that reduce public discourse to a war of repetition. They wave the Constitution like a red flag and assume angry Montanans will charge at whatever is behind it, and they cheapen the lines of communication between voter and representative.

    Between them, these two have cried tyranny so many times I worry they will run out of words if anything actually tyrannical happens. Their public statements seem to recognize no space between gross abuses of federal authority and doing nothing.

    Besides accusing the president of subverting the Constitution, nothing is what Daines and Zinke seem to do best. Since taking office, Daines has sponsored exactly no bills that became U.S. law and cosponsored one. Zinke has sponsored zero pieces of successful legislation and cosponsored three.”

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