Legislators ‘hunted’ with threats from pro-gun activists

Updated
File Photo: California State senator and then candidate for San Francisco mayor Leland Yee campaigns on a MUNI bus on November 7, 2011 in San Francisco,...
File Photo: California State senator and then candidate for San Francisco mayor Leland Yee campaigns on a MUNI bus on November 7, 2011 in San Francisco,...
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File

Americans who oppose additional gun restrictions have begun to speak–and threaten–legislators.

Within the next week, President Obama plans to visit different states in an attempt to renew momentum for a federal gun bill. By the end of the month, the Senate will discuss a gun violence prevention plan in the wake of last December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

But some legislators have already heard from constituents opposing possible gun policy bills.

New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney

The Democratic congresswoman told the New York Daily News that she received death threats at her Manhattan office beginning this month telling her not to proceed with a new piece of gun control legislation she introduced in March.

“They said they were going to kill me,” she told the newspaper, adding that she received three warnings about an hour apart. She avoided attending a scheduled dinner that night with the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts: “I couldn’t go. Who knows what could happen? I think any member of Congress would be scared after what happened to my good friend Gabby Giffords. You have to take these things seriously.” Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was a wounded victim of a shooting near Tucson in 2011.

The congresswoman introduced a bill that would require weapons owners to hold liability insurance, similar to what car owners are required to purchase. It isn’t unusual to receive calls from people opposing a bill, she said, but these messages were unsettling. She said she will, however, continue with moving the bill forward.

Any Democrat

In an interview with NPR, former National Rifle Association lobbyist Dudley Brown compared the next election season to deer-hunting season.

“I liken it to the proverbial hunting season. We tell gun owners, ‘There’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats,’” Brown said.

Brown, founder of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said the government would implement universal background checks to seize gun owners’ weapons.

Last month, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law tough gun legislation that will set ammunition magazine limits to 15 rounds and eight shot gun shells, and expand background checks on firearms to sales and transfers between private parties and online purchases.

Colorado state Sen. Angela Giron

The Democratic state senator said she felt threatened by Ray Stafford, general manager of the Pueblo Chieftain, because of an email he sent to her last month opposing legislation to strengthen Colorado’s gun laws.

“I am the general manager and responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom,” Stafford wrote to Giron on March 3. “I have never written a legislator, but I want you to know I oppose all the bills currently being considered involving guns, ammunition, magazines, and ownership transfers because I think they’re poorly written and a knee-jerk reaction to recent deaths. I also believe such legislation is a challenge to our Second Amendment.”

Stafford denied the email was intended to intimidate the senator, who was placed prominently in the newspaper for a week. Earlier in March prior to Stafford’s email, Giron had received other messages and threatening telephone calls related to gun control legislation.

Wyoming state Sen. Leland Christensen

After he attempted to amend a bill that would have limited new federal gun restrictions within his state’s borders, the Republican state senator received more than 1,500 emails from pro-gun advocates. “There were some pretty strongly worded emails. They were responding to bad information. Most had no idea what had taken place,” Christensen told the Jackson Hole Daily in February. The emails were supposedly prompted by the Wyoming Gun Owners and Wyoming Rep. Kendell Kroeker, whose gun bill Christensen proposed to amend.

Colorado state Rep. Rhonda Fields

A chief operating officer of an information technology firm was charged in connection to threatening emails, letters, and a voice mail meant for the Democratic senator. Franklin Sain was arrested at the end of February for harassing Fields, who has sponsored gun control bills, according to the senator’s website.

Sain allegedly sent Fields a letter saying, “There will be blood,” expressing hope that someone would “Giffords” her. Six emails to Fields and a similar voice mail contained profanity and sexual and racial epithets. Fields is a main sponsor of a reform bill concerning gun policy legislature.

California state Sen. Leland Yee

In February, a Santa Clara, Calif., man was charged with threatening to kill Yee over proposed gun control legislation. Police found 26 guns, thousands of bullets, and dozens of high-capacity ammunition magazines in Everett Basham’s home, according to the Associated Press. The Democratic senator proposed legislation that would limit the rapid reloading of assault weapons.

An anonymous threatening email sent to Yee in January said the sender was a “trained marine sniper” who could lie in wait, according to the AP article. The company traced the email to Basham’s account.

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan

Speaking on Up w/ Chris Hayes earlier this year, Nolan said no one has mentioned they are “gunning” for him, but administrators in his office have received angry and frightening calls from people who oppose stricter gun legislation.

“I think it would be a mistake, however, to underestimate the kind of toxic effect that the NRA is having,” the Democrat said. “I have never, ever in all my life feared for my security. And I’m not fearful of it now, but I’m a little more than I ever had been before.”

Staffers in Nolan’s office answering his telephone calls have received “not thinly-veiled threats” to “tell Nolan he better watch his back.”

Washington state Rep. Sherry Appleton

The Democrat withdrew a bill to limit self-defense rights after she said she received telephone threats and an email, according to the Seattle Times. Appleton’s bill would have required individuals to retreat from dangerous confrontations if they know that doing so would afford complete safety.

“I was so appalled by the Trayvon Martin shooting,” Appleton told the Times. “I did the bill because we have no verbiage on ‘duty to retreat’ in Washington.” Martin was shot and killed in February 2011 in a Florida neighborhood.

The congresswoman received more than 100 emails and calls that weren’t specific, but nonetheless frightened her.

Legislators 'hunted' with threats from pro-gun activists

Updated