Facing a primary from ultra-conservative former congressman J.D. Hayworth, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been veering far to the right. He went as far as to claim that he never called himself a “maverick.” McCain has reversed his positions on a host of issues, from climate change to immigration, in an attempt to appease right-wing voters; he is now doing the same on gun control.
Yesterday, McCain and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation that would force the District of Columbia to weaken its gun laws:
The Second Amendment Enforcement Act aims to change the District’s gun laws by repealing the city’s registration rules, amending federal law to allow D.C. residents to buy guns in Maryland and Virginia, while also allowing law-abiding Washingtonians to transport firearms in the District. The legislation would also alter city laws that recommend guns be kept unloaded and either unassembled or locked in homes.
“Some may ask why a Senator from Arizona and a Senator from Montana would introduce legislation that impacts the District of Columbia,” McCain said in a statement. “It’s simple — we believe that residents across this country should be able to exercise their constitutional right to have access [to] firearms to protect themselves.”
News of bill “was met with outrage from city officials,” especially considering D.C. recently gave up a chance at receiving voting rights in the House of Representatives for the first time in history after gun-rights advocates tacked on an amendment similar to McCain and Tester’s.
As Jonathan Cowan, president of the center-left think tank Third Way, noted, McCain’s sponsorship of the bill will “go down as the most spectacular and blatant reversal in Senator McCain’s political career.” In the early 2000s, McCain was a spokesperson for Americans for Gun Safety, a campaign headed by Cowan that encouraged states to enact stricter regulations. McCain cut ads on the group’s behalf, urging states with pending legislation to close the so-called gun show loophole, which allows people to purchase guns without a background check.
In 2001, McCain “rattled the gun-rights lobby” when he sponsored national legislation to eliminate the loophole. In a speech on the Senate floor at the time, McCain blasted states that hadn’t cracked down on illegal guns, saying, “We all know…[this] very dangerous loophole” needs to be closed:
We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws. We need this amendment because our second amendment rights do not extend to criminals who violate our laws and terrorists who hate this country. … We need this because every one of the 15 leading gun trafficking States in America has not taken action to close the gun show loophole.
“Hats off to John McCain,” famed White House reporter Helen Thomas wrote in a 2001 column, noting, “Gun-control advocates have a powerful new voice in the Senate.” The National Rifle Association was “bristling” over the gun show campaign, and “accused McCain of trying ‘to bootstrap on the Sept. 11 tragedy.’”
McCain reiterated his support for closing the loophole as recently as May 2008, when he told an NRA meeting, “I believe an accurate, fair and instant background check at guns shows is a reasonable requirement.” His moderate stance on gun control earned him scorn from gun-rights advocates during the 2008 campaign, with Gun Owners of America accusing McCain of “working with the enemy.” The group also gave McCain an ‘F’ for 2004 and 2006.
McCain’s pandering to the far right doesn’t seem to be helping him much, and his campaign opponent keeps calling out his flip-flops. So, McCain may end up losing the election along with his integrity.