Senator Heitkamp Is Awfully Quiet About Gun Control Right Now


U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp talks about the prospect of temporarily housing refugee children at the Grand Forks Air Force Base during a recent visit to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

After the horrific events in Las Vegas gun control is, once again, a topic of national debate.

Which is fine by me, as I’ve said on my radio show and elsewhere this week. The people proposing gun control have good intentions. They genuinely feel these policies will make us safer.

They’re just wrong is all.

Anyway, the Democrats are leading the charge on the gun control push in Congress, but largely silent on the issue is North Dakota’s junior Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

Heitkamp’s office didn’t even send out a press release regarding the Las Vegas shooting. Or, if they did, they didn’t post it on the Senator’s official website. Heitkamp’s only acknowledgement of the incident seems to be rote “thoughts and prayers” type stuff:

Contrast that with Heitkamp’s actions in 2016, after the nightclub shooting in Orlando perpetrated by Omar Mateen. In the days after that murderous rampage Heitkamp was outspoken in favor of gun control legislation, backing and even lobbying for policy which would have denied Americans their gun rights if the government placed them on a restricted list.

What of due process rights? Specifically the 5th amendment which states that nobody “shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law?” Heitkamp’s said those rights were protected by the policy she was backing because it would allow “individuals to appeal the decision to block gun purchasing rights.”

Guilty until proven innocent, in other words.

Why hasn’t Heitkamp backed similar gun control legislation in 2017, after the Las Vegas shooting, when she was behind it back in 2016 after the Orlando shooting?

The simple answer is that Heitkamp is at the dawn of what promises to be a bruising re-election campaign. She barely won her Senate seat in 2012, beating out Republican Rick Berg by just a few thousand votes, and is one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents of the 2018 election cycle.

Data on Heitkamp’s voting pattern in the Senate shows she was a lot more liberal earlier in her term, but has move to the right as she’s neared the end of it. That’s political calculation. Heitkamp knows she has to move to the right to get re-elected.

Backing gun control doesn’t fit Heitkamp’s political strategy right now.

I suspect that left-leaning voters wish Heitkamp would stick to the convictions she embraces when she’s not on the ballot, while right-leaning voters are afraid that if re-elected Heitkamp would govern as conservatively as she’s campaigning.