LOS ANGELES — Just days after an emotional, nationwide demonstration demanding stricter gun control laws, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has launched a staunch defense of the Second Amendment and pushed back on calls for reforms.
“I think sometimes people have a diminished sense of the Second Amendment,” Heitkamp told her audience this week during a Women Rule podcast taping in Los Angeles.
She acknowledged the political climate in California, noting that her views “might make everybody kind of groan who sees the tragedy that’s happened in this country, as it relates to gun violence.” The audience visibly tensed as Heitkamp continued to push her perspective, at some points audibly questioning her reasoning.
But the senator explained that she herself has “a real kind of visceral reaction to the lack of appreciation – or understanding – about how people feel about the Second Amendment, and how people feel about restrictions on the Second Amendment.” Heitkamp compared her feelings to those of abortion-rights supporters: “Restrictions on your reproductive rights – think about how strongly you feel about evaluating those restrictions. That’s how strongly people in North Dakota and Indiana and other places feel about restricting their Second Amendment.”
Breaking from many in her party, Heitkamp has historically resisted restrictions on gun ownership. She opposed legislation that would have expanded background checks for online firearm sales and at gun shows, and previously received an Agrade from the National Rifle Association.
That record serves her well in North Dakota, where gun ownership rates are among the highest in the nation and where the senator faces a tough re-election battle this year. As a Democrat, Heitkamp is running in a deeply red state that President Donald Trump won by a whopping 36 points in 2016. During her last race, in 2012, Heitkamp won with a margin of just one point.
On the Women Rule podcast, Heitkamp also denounced calls for restrictions on ownership for those with mental health issues, saying it would strip citizens of civil liberties in the same manner that unrestricted searches and seizures would.
The senator put it this way: “You’re going to take away someone’s gun rights just by saying we think you have a diagnosis of mental health challenges, so we’re going to take away your gun rights without due process.”
She also knocked the push for a law mandating a universal background check, saying that “if you look at all these cases, an enhanced background check would not have changed, would [not have] prevented anyone from getting a gun.”
Asked what sort of gun reforms she could support, Heitkamp floated the “no fly, no buy” bill by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), which would prevent individuals on federal no-fly lists from purchasing firearms.
She also recalled changes made to school policies after the deadly shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.
“We issued a report on what schools should do in terms of drills, and hardening schools,” said Heitkamp, who was North Dakota’s attorney general at the time of that attack. “And all of these schools have done that, but yet it hasn’t prevented these kinds of shootings.”
“I think we need to go back and take a look at institutions,” she said. “We need to go back and take a look at how, where we missed the mark on so much of this. But I think if we only focus on guns, I think we will miss the opportunity to really fix this problem.”