Joni Ernst is the strong front-runner in next week's Iowa Republican Senate primary, but neither that nor a looming general election stopped her from staking out positions to the right of her main rival on a host of hot-button issues in their final debate Thursday night. [...] Asked about the recent massacre in California in the context of a campaign commercial that shows her shooting a handgun, Ernst touted the support she's receiving from the National Rifle Association. "Just because of a horrible, horrible tragedy, I don't believe we should be infringing upon people's Second Amendment rights," she said, referring to the Santa Barbara shooting as an "unfortunate accident."
Of course, that's not all she said. Ernst, a far-right state senator, also endorsed an anti-gay amendment to the U.S. Constitution, denounced the Clean Air Act, touted privatization of Social Security, and suggested the federal minimum wage should be zero.
But it was her description of a mass murder in California as an "unfortunate accident" that definitely stood out as problematic.
When a man plots a killing spree, takes several guns and several hundred rounds of ammunition, and kills six people while wounding 13 others, it is many things. An "accident" isn't one of them.
Indeed, in context, Ernst's remarks were arguably even more offensive than they might appear at first blush. A debate moderator read a question from a local Iowa viewer who questioned whether it's appropriate for the far-right candidate to be airing TV ads in which she points a gun directly at the camera. Asked if she might change the ad in light of the mass murder, Ernst replied
, "I would not -- no. This unfortunate accident happened after the ad, but it does highlight that I want to get rid of, repeal, and replace Bruce Braley's Obamacare."
Braely is a Democratic congressman and Ernst's likely opponent in the fall.
Regrettably, the GOP Senate candidate isn't the only one saying ridiculous things in the wake of the Santa Barbara mass shooting. Remember this guy?
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – better known as "Joe the Plumber" – has penned an open letter saying the recent shooting deaths of young people near the University of California at Santa Barbara shouldn't get in the way of his right to bear arms. "I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But, as harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights," Wurzelbacher wrote in a letter to "the parents of the victims murdered by Elliot Rodger."