Democratic presidential candidate and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock called on fellow gun owners to support gun law reforms in the wake of two mass shootings.
The red state governor campaigned for reelection in 2016 by opposing an assault weapons ban and universal background checks on gun purchases. His recent reversal on both issues before jumping into the 2020 presidential race has led to skepticism among some of his liberal colleagues.
But now, Bullock is in a unique position to push for gun reform. He is one of only seven Democrats to lead states that President Donald Trump won in 2016. In Montana, he says he’s gotten good at finding common ground with Republicans, who command solid control over the state legislature. He says universal background checks on gun purchases are a good place to start.
“It’s not just Democrats that say they would like [background checks,]” Bullock told PBS NewsHour managing editor and anchor Judy Woodruff in an interview. “I mean NRA members say this makes sense,” he added.
Bullock recently disclosed that his 11-year-old nephew was killed by in a schoolyard shooting two decades ago, by a 10-year-old boy who brought a gun to school. Bullock now has a son in the sixth grade doing active shooter drills at school;his son is who comes to mind when he thinks about reforming gun laws.
“It’s reached a crisis,” Bullock said.
Trump won Montana by 20 points in 2016. Bullock won the state by four points. But he isn’t shy to point out that the president’s language and “equivocat[ing]” on white nationalism — including some echoed in a manifesto authorities have linked to the El Paso shooter — has contributed to violence. “I would never want to put the blood of people all across this country on one person’s hands,” Bullock said, referring to Trump. “But for him to say we have to speak with one voice when it comes to speaking out against racism and white nationalism and bigotry when so much of the language that he’s used over the last two and a half years has included racism and equivocation on white nationalism and bigotry — You can’t say this just the day after shootings when you haven’t lived it for the last two and a half years.”
Other highlights from the interview:
- On fundraising with lobbyists while waging a legal battle against dark money in politics: Bullock brushed off criticism that he planned to attend a D.C. fundraiser co-hosted by a federally registered-lobbyist who lobbies in dark money, while at the same time pledging to help stop undisclosed financial contributions from influencing American politics. “They certainly don’t give money to me,” Bullock said when asked about the lobbyist and fundraiser co-host Jay Driscoll. “One individual helping out at a fundraiser certainly isn’t going to be influencing my everyday actions.”
- On his criticism of the national Democratic party: Bullock, who often points to Democrats in Washington as all talk and no action, said he’s the only 2020 contender who’s been able to win in Trump country. “If we can’t win back some of these places we’ve lost we’re not going to win,” Bullock said of the 2020 election. “I think I have a little different perspective than most folks here.”