MN-08: How Rick Nolan stopped worrying and learned to love assault weapons

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s position on gun control seemed to be the one constant amid ever-changing positions on myriad issues. But all that changed Wednesday, after a picture surfaced of the congressman cheerfully posing with one of the assault-style weapons he says are dangerous and should be banned. Nolan is now facing new charges of hypocrisy and finds his hunting credentials called into question in light of obvious violations of basic gun safety rules.

Nolan wasn’t shy about voicing his support for gun control legislation during his 2012 campaign. As a newly-elected congressman, he reiterated that position during an early January 2013 appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation:

“I don’t need an assault weapon to shoot a duck. And I think they ought to be banned.”

Seems pretty clear.

And later that month, Nolan told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he’d received threats as a result of that position

Nobody has actually come out and said they’re gunning for me, but the messages are quite angry, vitriolic, and a little bit frightening to people at my front desk who have been taking the calls. I’m a little nervous about it. I’ve never been nervous before

Nolan repeated that claim more than once, yet still made the puzzling decision to move his primary district office from the Gerald Heaney Federal Building – and the protection of security screenings by federal guards – to the ground floor of an unsecured building, just steps from the entrance to the bar of a downtown Duluth restaurant.

Odd behavior for a congressman concerned enough about threats of violence to voice them on national television to be sure. But no matter what their content, the messages gave Nolan an opportunity to portray himself as the victim of the NRA, garnering the sympathy and support of anti-gun progressives across the country. And he continued to beat the drum of gun control right up until this week.

But Nolan is now fighting for his political life, desperately trolling for votes from pretty much anyone – including those gun owners he previously vilified.

So bring on the picture of Rick Nolan holding an AR-15 (you know, one of those pesky assault rifles that he wants to outlaw.)

Most politicians would be at least a little embarrassed but not good ole Rick, who never lets a previously stated position on anything get in the way of shameless pandering. Just look at that smile!

Nolan with assault rifle sep 23

Nolan might not have a spine but, God love ’em, he has the chutzpah to pose for a photo op so transparent that it insults the intelligence of every single voter in the 8th congressional district (a sports coat and tie, Gracie?)

Unfortunately for the congressman, he demonstrates far less common sense than most kids on the Iron Range, who learn at a very young age that you NEVER place your finger on the trigger of a gun unless you intend to shoot because:

#1: There is no such thing as an unloaded gun
#2: If you think the gun is unloaded, see #1

But wait, there’s more.

Nolan’s blatant disregard for the safety of others isn’t an isolated incident, as documented in this tracking video released Thursday by the NRCC

Holy. Buckets.

Congressman, we know you’re desperate but, trust us, winning the Dick Cheney Award for Gun Safety won’t get you many votes in the 8th district.

Seriously Rick, even kids up here know better than to play around like that with a gun.

Nolan may indeed go hunting (perhaps he learned from the former vice president?), but he seems completely oblivious to the standards of responsible gun use that is the norm among sportspeople in northern Minnesota.

In the social media frenzy that followed the posting of the picture on facebook, many pointed out that Nolan violated a basic rule taught to 12-year-olds in DNR firearms safety classes. One declared “Rick Nolan’s right – guns are dangerous, but only when he’s holding them!”

Gun Owners PAC stepped up with a very generous offer to pay for Nolan to receive firearms safety training from a qualified instructor at (drum roll, please) Mills Fleet Farm Indoor Shooting!

Green Party candidate Skip Sandman said they all make good points, and while the Fleet Farm reference is amusing, there’s nothing funny about ignoring basic gun safety rules. “Carelessness like that [shown by Nolan] gets people killed”

Sandman and Republican Stewart Mills have different opinions on the gun issue, but both find Nolan’s hypocrisy troubling.

“The congressman is not acting for the benefit of his constituents” observes Sandman.
“What is Nolan really trying to say to the people – that he can’t make up his mind or he’s sitting on the fence? His record on gun control speaks for itself. This is a contradiction and contradiction leads to confusion among voters. And this is just one of many contradictions ”

“Rick Nolan’s hypocrisy is getting out of hand, and this is just the latest example” says Mills spokeswoman Chloe Rockow. “It’s absolutely outrageous that he would say he wants to ban guns like this in Washington, then come home and pose with one the first opportunity he gets. Minnesotans deserve a representative who won’t say whatever it takes to mislead his constituents on his real positions. Minnesotans deserve better.”