Local voters discuss gun control issues

Experts on the election say that gun control, usually a hot-button topic, will really play no role in this year’s presidential election. Yet, in a state like Minnesota, Second Amendment rights could still play a major role in local elections. “Personally, I feel the safest voting with Republicans,” said William Fischer, election volunteer coordinator in Minnesota’s 7th District for the National Rifle Association (NRA). “They may tend to follow with their party members.”

Hunting and spending time outdoors are traditions many citizens in the Midwest enjoy. Many firearm owners fear gun control policies could potentially threaten traditions of sitting around deer camp, swapping stories and throwing another log on the fire. These traditions, which have become a lifestyle for hunters nationwide, are what they seek to protect.

According to Tony Hill, political science professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, this very issue has had a history of shifting political power from one party to another. Even so, the issue won't be discussed at the presidential level in the 2012 election.

“Democrats are not proposing any legislation on gun control right now,” Hill said. “The election is not going to come down to this issue.”

The issue of gun control will not play a major role in this presidential election, but it is much more relevant at the local level.

In 1994, Republicans regained majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives after control had been given to Democrats during the prior election. One of the most significant reasons for voters turning over Congress was the passing of the Brady Bill in 1993, according to Hill.

This piece of legislation required a five-day waiting period when purchasing a firearm to allow a background check of the purchaser to be processed. Many firearms owners saw this as the government taking away Second Amendment rights, and in return, many incumbent Democratic congressmen and congresswomen lost races based on how they voted on the bill.

Still, not all firearms owners automatically vote Republican. In fact, the NRA has endorsed six of the candidates running for the eight congressional positions, two of which represent the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party.

The NRA sends out a survey to all political candidates and combines that score with the candidate’s history of voting on gun related issues, Fischer said.

Whichever candidate scores higher in each race is endorsed by the NRA. Because this process takes a candidate's voting history into consideration, those with less political experience may automatically receive a lower score.

Still, some gun owners are afraid that giving majority control to the Democratic Party would result in Democrats looking to restrict the right to own firearms.

According to Michael Misterek, campaign manager for the Rick Nolan Campaign, which is in the 8th District, Nolan is an avid outdoorsman who loves to hunt. In fact, his first anniversary gift to his wife was a 20-gauge shotgun, Misterek said.

“Rick would never take away a hunter’s gun,” Misterek said. “Instead, he would rather go out and shoot with the hunter and share a common interest.”

Misterek went on to say that many of the stereotypes of Democrats and gun control are simply not true.

Many Minnesota voters will take to the polls Nov. 6 looking to protect memories created by the outdoors and ensure that generations to come can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors in the same way. Yet, it is not the only issue to keep in mind.

“It all comes down to what you feel,” Fischer said. “I don’t always vote 100 percent one way, as there is more to voting than just one issue.”

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