By Caleb Mills
Courage is an increasingly rare quality in today’s political arena. And to be frank, it’s not all that surprising. The very nature of public service demands sacrifice, and not always the good kind. In a world where men’s worldviews are bought and sold based at the highest lobbyist’s offer, it’s not even fully condemnable either. That’s how politics works. It’s the only way to survive your next election or get that coveted council seat; success demands compromise. So while refusing to make that necessary compromise might be juvenile or even irresponsible in some instances of governmental service, in politics, it can be commendable, and it’s the type of thing we need now more than ever.
If you were to ask Montana Governor Steve Bullock what he thought about abortion, gay marriage, or transgender rights, his answer would understandably manifest into a delicate political ballet designed to avoid giving any semblance of an answer, and why wouldn’t he? Montana went to President Trump in the last election cycle by over 20%. For Democrats representing red states, personal ambition and political logic has a tendency of taking prominence over party loyalty and ideological purity. Indiana Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly is notorious for avoiding the topic of abortion like the plague, and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin arguably doesn’t have a progressive bone in his body. However, when it comes to guns, even if you may not entirely agree with the governor’s opinion, he’s undoubtedly demonstrating the type of honest sensibility that Washington is so badly lacking.
Not only has the governor stated he supports universal background checks, an already risky position considering Montana is the second most dependent state when it comes to the gun industry, but while partaking in an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN, Bullock told the media outlet he supports a ban on the sale semi-automatic weapons.
“If we really step back for a minute, I think most folks that live in Montana and elsewhere that are firearm owners want to keep themselves and their families safe. It’s not unlike folks who say that all these school tragedies and everything that’s been happening,” the two-term governor said. “What do they really want? Those same values.”
Despite the governor’s confidence when it comes to the issue, at least when related to the citizens of his great state, it seems to be misplaced. A recent Montana State University-Billings political poll taken in December of 2015 shows 78% of Montanans oppose any new sort of gun restrictions, while a more recent poll taken by isidewith.com shows 65% of state residents disapprove of increasing background checks.
In a way, however, the contrast between the governor’s position and Montana’s predominantly conservative majority only serves as a reminder of how admirable his grit is to take such a position in the first place. As previously mentioned, the governor’s state heavily favors the president, however, last election cycle, Bullock won his reelection handily. He not only easily carried typically Democrat-leaning counties like Missoula and Cascade, but also more rural ones such as Glaciar and Roosevelt. As of July, the governor had an approval rating resting comfortably at 51% according to the Morning Consultant.
Speculation that this new position stems from the governor’s nervous flirtation with running for the presidency has merit, considering that in 2016 he opposed universal background checks and touted what he said himself was his strong support for gun rights. The governor even recently formed his own political action committee and took an extensive tour of Iowa in April. However, in spite of what many are saying, this isn’t the first time the governor has spoken up about the issue. In February, Bullock met with President Trump at the White House to discuss how to best deal with gun violence.
“We can improve the instant check system,” Bullock said. “We also know that about a quarter of the guns that are sold don’t even get into that system… so… a universal background check. We know that ten percent of our homicides each year are in intimate relationships… so making sure the orders of protection, the domestic violence: making sure that’s in NICS…” Bullock was heard telling the President during the meeting.
As governor, Bullock has never been called upon to deal with any major legislation regarding the restriction of firearms, most likely because the Republican controlled legislature has squashed any sort of measure from getting to the governor’s desk.
Nonetheless, it’s this type of commendable courage that has made Bullock a major candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, as well as a major political figure in his own state. Bullock’s refreshing political honesty needs to be emulated in Washington, and lacking that, he should take it there himself. Crazier things have happened. After all, as a wealthy businessman with a robust and controversial personality proved almost two years ago, the analysts aren’t always as accurate as they claim to be. Sometimes you don’t need be to loudest, craziest, most flamboyant guy in the room to win. As rare as it may be, sometimes, you just need to be the one in the right.
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