Earlier this week, with the Connecticut school shooting in the headlines, Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp couldn’t be reached by the North Dakota media asking questions about gun control.
During an appearance on PBS, however, Heitkamp couldn’t dodge the question. The interviewer had to ask it of her twice, Heitkamp’s first deflected the question with an answer focusing on mental health, but he did get an answer eventually. And it was about as clear as mud.
Watch Sen.-Elect Heidi Heitkamp on Gun Control, Keystone Pipeline on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, it looks as though one of the first things you might face in office is what to do in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. You come from a strong Second Amendment state. You yourself received an A-rating from the NRA, but you spoke the other day of possible changes to our gun laws.
What changes specifically can you support now?
HEIDI HEITKAMP: Well, I think we have to step back from all of this discussion and start really trying to examine what happened in Connecticut and why it happened in Connecticut.
I also am a very staunch proponent of looking at our mental health system in this country and start addressing those concerns as well. During the time that I was attorney general was also the time of Columbine. There were a number of school shootings.
I served as a chair of a committee that we pulled together within the National Association of Attorneys General to begin to discuss what we could change. And so I’m not willing to just throw out one solution against other solutions.
I think we need to understand this culture. I think we need to understand what happened in this specific decision that this young man made to do one of the most horrific things that can be done in America, and how we’re going to prevent that in the future.
And so I’m about results, actually things that matter and things that can change the dynamic. And that needs to be everything. We need to talk not only about gun laws and what needs to be examined there, but we also need to look at mental health, school security, community development that will provide some — hopefully some hope and help with parents with children who are struggling with mental illness.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, but accepting that there can be many things on the table, I still do want to ask you again, though, about the gun control part of it.
I just wonder, from a state like yours, what could constituents accept? There’s talk of, of course, a ban on assault weapons, of certain kinds of magazines. How far would you be willing to carry that conversation right now?
HEIDI HEITKAMP: I think people in North Dakota want to make sure that we do everything in the aftermath of this disaster to prevent it from happening again.
Obviously, we’re a strong Second Amendment state. We believe — the interesting thing about North Dakota, we have the highest rate of gun ownership in the country and the lowest rate of gun violence in the country. And so we understand and we appreciate the concerns that people have that we need to begin to address.
But I think all of this talk really is putting the cart before the horse, when we haven’t had the discussion about what it is that has created this circumstance. And I spent a lot of years working in law enforcement. And let me tell you, my approach to problems is that you examine what exactly happened before you begin to fashion some kind of solution to prevent it.
Remember that, during he campaign, the NRA expressed doubts about Heitkamp’s record on gun control.
North Dakota is, most definitely, a pro-gun state and Heitkamp has to walk a careful line on the issue. But the fact that she even has to walk that line is telling. Someone who truly believes in the 2nd amendment, who truly believes that crime is the result of human behavior and not the existence of inanimate objects, wouldn’t have to walk that line at all.
This will be a tough issue for Heitkamp. During the campaign for the Senate she was able to skirt any careful scrutiny of her politics by keeping up an incessant and nasty campaign of personal attacks on her opponent Rick Berg. But Berg is out of the picture now, and Heitkamp’s record will speak for itself.
And it’s going to be a record, I think, where she’ll vote as far-left as she believes she can get away with up to and including on gun issues.