The last thing any watcher of Alaska politics expects to see is one credible candidate attack another for not supporting gun control legislation. But that is exactly what happened Friday when Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Edgar Blatchford tweeted this about incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski:
Gun control /gun rights, depending on how you want to look at the issue, has long been seen by insiders in both political parties as the true third rail of Alaska politics. Some might think that mantle belongs to the Permanent Fund, but there have been multiple serious efforts to change the fund in the last 15-20 years.
Can you remember any serious discussion of gun control legislation in Alaska? EVER? Neither can I.
You might hear it pop up in limited locations, relatively quiet discussions on whether guns should be allowed in courthouses, city halls, legislative buildings, or university campuses, but never as a broad issue.
Blachford served stints in the cabinets of Governors Hickel and Murkowski, and as the Mayor of Seward.
His thoughts are certainly timely if rarely expressed. They come on the heels of a renewed national conversation on gun[-control in the wake of what recently occurred in a predominantly gay nightclub in Orlando, and a high-profile protest in a sit-in the House of Representatives by both House and Senate Democrats staged to protest the lack of movement in Congress on “No Fly, No Buy” gun control legislation.
When contacted for further comment on the issue, Blachford left little doubt where he stands on the issue:
“I think there ought to be background checks. I think that every citizen ought to have the same right to safety as the person who drives an automobile. We all have the basic constitutional right to travel between the 50 states, but we have limits on that. We have speed limits, you can’t drive drunk, and you have to have insurance.”
“When I see the U.S. Senate not even allow for background checks and for a waiting period before a person who has done harm or is likely to do harm to citizens of the United States and visitors of the United States, I think it’s obnoxious.I think we all realize that when it comes to the Second Amendment, it calls for common sense application and common sense interpretation. That is what I believe in.”
Asked if that means he would have voted for the “No Fly, No Buy” legislation Blatchford said::
“Absolutely, I would have done that.”
“We need to help TSA do their jobs. If there are people who are suspected terrorists, TSA ought to know and ought to be able to alert the other agencies, whether it’s the FBI or any other protective agencies, they ought to have that help.”
Blatchford could not identify anything specific that Murkowski had said or done that drew his ire. Rather, he objected to Murkowski’s assent to gun right advocates’ opposition to the bill:
“She is right in step with the people who are lobbying for Second Amendment rights. The effort wasn’t to take guns away from anybody. It was to make the air safer. To make sure travelers have the opportunity to depart and arrive safely. When it comes to background checks and waiting periods, I have no hesitation what-so-ever.”
“Terrorism has become a very, very sophisticated science. They know how to blow up things and kill things as efficiently as most of the best armies in the world. To use the Second Amendment to protect them, to blow us up, I think is obnoxious.”
He went on to express a view of the issue he seems to see as exposing a key chasm in Alaska’s urban-rural divide.
“I have maybe six rifles in my closet and maybe a couple of pistols.”
“I came from a hunting family. When my father died he must have had 50 rifles and he left them to all of the kids. Not a single one of the guns he purchased in 60 years of hunting in the arctic was ever used for any other purpose other than hunting. I don’t think he ever belonged to the NRA.”
““When my father would come in off the ice, he would hand the three boys, Michael, Edgar, and Tom, give Michael, the oldest boy the powerful weapon, the .243, then he would give me the shotgun, then Tom, the youngest, the .22. Our job was run into the cabin and wrap the guns in blankets to keep them from sweating. We learned how to take care of rifles at the very earliest age, because you protected the tools that you needed to survive in the arctic.”
“I grew up in that kind of environment. I look at some of these arguments about the Second Amendment, but it’s not for hunting purposes that they are really advocating it, it’s for pleasure. It’s for target practicing.”
As for the self-defense argument, Blatchford isn’t buying that either.
“I kinda look sideways when they say “well,l I wanna be able to protect myself.” Then I say there is really more harm coming when you arm everybody, including the terrorists.”
“When I look at the legislation, I think I am like 80% of Americans that want to be sure that when they go into a church, or into a school, or they go into a shopping mall, or they go into an airport, they want to make sure there isn’t a suspected terrorist who becomes a known terrorist because he has the weapons. And the weapons we have now are weapons of mass destruction. They kill dozens of people.”
“I want to be safe, my mother wants to be safe, my brother wants to be safe, all the family members want to be safe. We want to be able to go into a crowd. We want to be able to travel. I want to be able to go into a classroom or watch the Seawolves play basketball, not afraid that some extremist is gonna stand up and start shooting everybody.”
“If I was packing, if I had a pistol, first of all it’s pretty hard to hit your target when you have a pistol. What do I go into the Wells Fargo Center with, an AK-47?. What should all of my seat mates have watching the basketball game, should we all have AK-47s? Should we all go out to the airport packing? NO, NO, NO!!!””
For her part, Sen. Murkowski’s campaign didn’t respond to a request to respond to Blatchford’s comments. Her Senate office did issue a prepared statement on the issue Thursday which said:
“I believe we can all agree that we want to keep Americans safe and keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, and the mentally unstable. However I also strongly believe that Americans should not be forced to prove their innocence before losing a basic right. If the government is going to deny a U.S. citizen the right to purchase a firearm they should be prepared to carry the burden in court to demonstrate that the individual in fact presents a risk. Today I supported continuing debate on efforts to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, while ensuring that there are due process protections for individuals’ Second Amendment rights.”