Greg Sargent flags a video today that’s almost hard to believe. If anyone needed a reminder about the stunning trajectory of the debate over gun policy, this clip ought to do the trick.
The video is a 30-second ad recorded by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2000, endorsing an Oregon ballot measure intended to expand firearm background checks. For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the script:
“I’m John McCain with some straight talk. Convicted felons have been able to buy and sell thousands of guns at gun shows because of a loophole in the law. Many were later used in crimes. That’s wrong.
“Here in Oregon, Measure 5 will close this dangerous loophole by requiring criminal background checks by unlicensed dealers at gun shows. I believe law abiding citizens have the right to own guns – but with rights come responsibilities. Close the loophole; vote yes on 5.”
Keep in mind, this was in 2000 – the year McCain sought the Republican presidential nomination, and won seven primaries.
Thirteen years later, Republicans not only can’t bring themselves to agree with this same message, they’re actually prepared to kill any legislation that does what McCain wanted to do.
In other words, in 2000, there was nothing especially shocking about a conservative Republican – someone with an “A” rating from the NRA, who enjoyed a national following – endorsing expanded firearm background checks. In 2013, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, just about all congressional Republicans consider this idea to be outrageous assault on liberty that must be crushed.
In 2000, McCain said tougher federal restrictions on firearms purchases made sense “in light of some of the terrible tragedies that have befallen our nation.” In 2013, in the aftermath of terrible tragedies, McCain’s party is reluctant to even have a debate on measures that enjoy overwhelming public support.
I can only imagine how appalled McCain circa 2000 would be with McCain circa 2013.
The point, however, isn’t just that John McCain is a shell of his former self; the point is there’s been a striking shift in Republican politics as the party has grown increasingly radicalized in recent years. McCain’s moderation on guns 13 years ago is simply intolerable within today’s GOP.