Montana Politics Ryan Zinke Steve Daines

Daines and Zinke Ghoulishly, Inaccurately Demagogue on Another Gun Tragedy

It certainly hasn’t taken Senator Daines and Representative Zinke long to try to score some cheap political points following the deaths of five American service members last week. Both, in the last day, have released press releases about proposed bills that would allow servicemen and women to carry guns at military installations largely without restrictions. In typical fashion, Representative Zinke claimed he was “introducing” the bill, even though Senator Daines and Duncan Hunter initially introduced it in each chamber.

Daines offered this fact-free, red meat explanation for his bill, which would undermine the authority of military commanders to set policies for their bases and substitute the judgment of members of Congress for that of experienced military officers:

The fastest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It’s time to allow our men and women in uniform – including our military recruiters – to have all the resources they need to protect and defend themselves. It’s unfortunate that it took a tragedy like what happened in Tennessee to wake us up to the fact that there needs to be a policy change.

Facts are stubborn things, though. As the Navy Times notes, the Marines did return fire after they were attacked:

A report distributed among senior Navy leaders during the shooting’s aftermath said Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White, the support center’s commanding officer, used his personal firearm to engage Abdulazeez, Navy Times confirmed with four separate sources. A Navy official also confirmed a Washington Post report indicating one of the slain Marines may have been carrying a 9mm Glock and possibly returned fire on the gunman.

Even the broad premise of the proposed fixes isn’t based in truth, as Politifact notes, in this quote from a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation:

Steven Bucci, a military expert for the Heritage Foundation and former Army colonel, told PolitiFact that the policy about firearms existed for decades before Clinton, or Bush for that matter.  “As far back as when I joined the military in 1973, and probably further back, you have never been able to carry firearms, privately owned or government, on military installations. You always had to register it with the MP’s and keep them locked in the arms rooms,” he said, referring to military police…. “No one ‘disarmed’ the military — the military itself prefers to manage good order and discipline by not having everyone armed.”

The military does not support changing the policy, which it implemented and then codified under the presidency of George H.W. Bush:

“DoD does not support arming all personnel. We hold this position for many reasons,” Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday.  Those reasons include safety concerns and the risk of accidental discharges, she said.  Moreover, providing law enforcement-style training and qualification tests for additional parts of the force could be extraordinarily costly, she said.

What’s also left unsaid in the media coverage is the danger that guns present in any workplace. After a tragedy like this, conservatives are eager to score political points by suggesting that more guns will make workplaces safer, but the statistical reality is, of course, much different. Accidental shootings, increased suicides, workplace homicides and the like don’t get non-stop media coverage, so it’s easy to forget that for every imagined heroic life saving act by an armed person, there will be dozens more injuries and fatalities that are chalked up as the incidental cost of gun mania before being ignored.

Daines’s infantile suggestion that “the fastest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” demonstrates the absence of reason underlying these proposals. Life is not like a Hollywood western, and identifying the “bad guy” to shoot him is probably a bit more complex than it seems from behind the desk of a disconnected Senator. Especially when Republican policies have made it so easy for anyone to get a gun as easily as a piece of furniture online:

A friend’s claim that the man accused of opening fire last week on two military facilities in Tennessee bought powerful guns over the Internet has renewed attention to online firearm bazaars, a lightly regulated world where buyers and sellers can set up purchases without background checks.

So these proposals will actually make military bases less safe, undermine the authority of military commanders, misrepresent what really happened, and distort the reality of gun violence in America.

Of course, in a state almost devoid of critical press coverage, what Zinke and Daines are doing makes total sense. They’ll get a lot of positive, uncritical press attention for proposed bills that feel good, but won’t actually make anyone safer. They’ll score points with the radical gun lobby, who won’t be satisfied until every preschool teacher is required to pack heat. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll have another chance to demagogue a tragedy for political gain.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • While completely off topic Swede, I’m with ya! just a few more baby parts and Planned Parenthood can buy a fleet of Lambos. And btw gun free zones have an unusual tendency for guns to appear in the hands of sociopaths.

    • So do gun ranges:

      It was in a Florida gun range that Marie Moore fatally shot her adult son and then herself in 2009. Because Moore had been involuntarily institutionalized in 2002, she couldn’t have passed a background check. But she didn’t have to in order to rent a gun at Shoot Straight. Hers was the second shooting death in the course of a month at the state’s largest independent gun-shop chain. And after the second incident, a suicide, Shoot Straight changed its policy to halt rentals until it could implement a background check system. That was before owner Joerg Jaeger learned that he wasn’t allowed to background check renters. For a time, Shoot Straight started allowing rentals again. But a spate of at least 11 more suicides followed in the Orlando area. So in January of 2014, the chain banned rentals altogether.

    • Organizational purchase or auction, yes. Private party sale, no. That’s a loophole that has plagued private sale facilitators like When listing your weapon, you sign an agreement that you will not contact a potential purchaser privately, nor withdraw your offering before completion of auction. Craig’s list changes a lot of those rules.

      • How is that any different than a classified ad in the newspaper, where the buyer and seller learn of each other, the meet to exchange goods for money? Usually when talking about “internet sales” there is a shipment either inter-state or intra-state and mush conform to federal, state, and local laws. Also, such shipments must conform to carrier rules.

      • I agree with Rob. Facebook sales as well! There are tons of facebook sales with guns. no FFL needed.

        I use GunBroker, and I use FFL dealers like those in my Town, Even Cheaper than Dirt online when purchasing a gun or Ammo. But there is a plethora of places a criminal can get a gun, without an FFL.

  • There was a “good guy with a gun” at the Gabby Giffords shooting. He ran out, drew his gun, looked at the confusion that was going on and then put his gun back in its holster. He said later that if he had decided to shoot someone, he would have shot the two people who were trying to wrestle the gun away from Jared Loughner – the shooter who caused all the mayhem in the first place. And thankfully because of his cooler head, he decided that he didn’t know enough about the situation to start unloading his pistol on people without really understanding what was going on so innocent lives were saved that day. Innocent lives.

    That’s what these idiots don’t get – that mostly when people start running around and shooting at things – lots more innocent people get injured and killed. First because half the time they don’t know what’s going on. Then because they aren’t trained shooters. And finally even if they are – they don’t or can’t hit their targets because of the stress or emotions of the situation.

    There was a situation in Chicago not too long after the Giffords shooting. A man walked into a plaza waving a gun. Four police officers (trained shooters, obviously) circled around him and demanded that he drop the weapon. He did not. All four of the officers began firing at him. At the end of the “gun battle” the man was still standing. He had not been hit and he still had his gun. He had not fired a single round. Seven innocent bystanders were dead. Twelve other innocent bystanders were wounded including one of the police officers. 57 rounds were recovered from surrounding buildings and vehicles. The man was finally tackled and his firearm taken from him wherein it was discovered that it was not loaded. So much for the good guys with guns vs bad guys with guns theory.

    I’m sorry, but you are going to have to do better than that.

  • These comments have surely stetched the topic here – but POGIE seems to have gone off the deep end if he thinks trained soldiers shouldn’t be trusted with firearms.

    About what I’d expect from someone who’s never touched off a pistol.

    • It’s always been abundantly clear that you’re not a reader, Eric, but surely even you noted that two of the service members returned fire?

      And what makes your judgment superior to the military commanders who have largely (but not completely) restricted gun possession in these settings for decades? You have a lot of experience commanding troops we’re not aware of?

    • I don’t know if Pogie has ever “touched off a pistol.” That is completely irrelevant. I’ve never flown the F-35 jet fighter (unit cost about $100 million, without engine). Does that mean I can’t have an informed opinion on it?

  • Completely agree with Pete and Don on this. Even the Military believes that their first line of defense in the states are the police.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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