By Rick Manning — Newly elected North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp most likely solidified her re-election for life in the first week of serving in the U.S. Senate when she waded into the gun control debate by refusing to take the bait from those seeking to restrict the right to keep and bear arms.
Senator Heitkamp’s relatively benign, common sense comments on ABC’s “This Week” that trial balloon Administration proposals on gun control that had been leaked to the Washington Post were “way, way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about. And it’s not going to pass,” effectively ended the President’s hopes of getting a semi-automatic firearm ban passed through the Democratic Party controlled Senate.
The math for the legislation in the Senate was bleak before Heitkamp put the kibosh of reality to the left’s dreaming of the NRA’s collapse.
Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor are both up for re-election in 2014. Unless they are planning on retiring, their votes were off the table.
South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is another who would be unlikely to break from a tradition of opposing draconian gun legislation. What most don’t remember is Johnson initially won the seat when the NRA chose not to endorse incumbent Republican Senator James Abdnor due to then Representative Johnson’s staunch support for gun rights in the U.S. House of Representatives.
North Carolina Senator Kay Hagen might not want to return for another term, but the fluke candidate of 2008, would more than likely prefer not to have to explain her vote to ban guns amongst the rural blue collar Democrat voters in her state.
Newly minted Indiana Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin both waffled on the gun control issue in the wake of the Newtown shootings. Donnelly, who replaced long-time gun control supporter Republican Dick Lugar, is far less likely to give aid and comfort to those who want to ban guns than the man he replaced. Senator Manchin, who famously made a political commercial shooting a rifle shot through a mock copy of cap-and-trade legislation has already moderated his initial knee-jerk response when the initial horror of Newtown was omnipresent.
And then there is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who made appearances in Nevada with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre prior to his razor thin re-election over challenger Sharon Angle. A gun control vote would put Reid into a politically untenable position, something he surely wants to avoid.
Conversely, if former Massachusetts Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown had been re-elected, or even if someone like New Jersey Republican nominee Joe Kyrillos had won in 2012, they would have likely been the first Republicans out of the box declaring that additional gun measures were needed. The exact kind of pronouncements that build momentum for “doing something.”
While many conservatives believe that electing a straight Republican line is the ideal, in this case, liberty was best served by Brown and Kyrillos being defeated.
And Senator Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota may just have ended Obama’s gun ban dream before many of us even woke up from the Newtown nightmare. If she holds true, our nation’s lovers of liberty should be eternally grateful that party line politics failed in North Dakota.
Rick Manning is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government. He has served in the past as an NRA state lobbyist.