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January 11th, 2013

Conservatives Can Be Their Own Worst Enemy in Gun Debate

By Craig Robinson

Earlier this week, I offered Republicans some advice on how to manage the difficult times in which we find ourselves.  No matter what they say or what they do, the media seems to find fault regardless of the issue at hand.  I believe that if Republicans focus on governing, the future will take care of itself.  Now is the time to put politics aside and focus on advancing commonsense policies that most Americans support.

This is not just advice that Republicans should heed when times are tough.  Republican leaders and lawmakers should always attempt to govern is a thoughtful and responsible way no matter which way the political winds may be blowing.

One area in which Republicans need to especially mindful of how they conduct themselves is Second Amendment issues.   Those issues have become a top priority in Iowa and across the nation ever since Adam Lanza’s unexplained rampage that killed kindergarten and elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut, last month.

After the Newtown shooting, I wrote the following in an article that called on Republicans to do more than simply hide behind our constitutional right to own and use firearms.

I’m a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, but conservatives can’t simply hide behind our constitutional right to own and use firearms.  No political party has the high ground on this topic, but if conservatives don’t engage in a thoughtful discussion, I fear we will once again be castigated by the media and liberal Democrats for being insensitive, backwards, and unreasonable.

Unfortunately, instead of participating in a serious debate about school safety, mental health, and gun rights, many on the right have chosen to talk tough when it comes to guns.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to respond to comments like those made by Vice President Joe Biden or Iowa State Representative State Rep. Dan Muhlbauer, but the problem is how they chose to respond.

David Fisher, the newly elected co-chair of the Republican Party of Iowa, responded to the statement by Rep. Muhlbauer which indicated firearms should be confiscated from law-abiding Iowans.

Fisher stated:

Chilling statements like this show that Representative Dan Muhlbauer clearly doesn’t understand the Constitutional protections of the second amendment or fourth amendment. His idea that the government should “start taking” our guns is especially troubling. The Republican Party is prepared to stand with the people of Iowa and fight for their constitutionally guaranteed right to defend themselves and their families. We also believe the fourth amendment guarantees us the right to be secure in our homes without unreasonable search and seizure.

Fisher’s statement that was posted on the Iowa GOP’s website wasn’t over the top or insensitive in any way.  Fisher would later send out a fundraising email titled, “We Need To Start Taking The Guns,” that used Muhlbauer’s statements to motivate people to donate to the Republican Party of Iowa to stop “Gun Grabbers” like him.  That email might have crossed a line for some people.

Muhlbauer’s statement received national media attention on Wednesday.  His statements also make him a vulnerable Democrat in the 2014 election.  Yet, by attempting to hype the story in an effort to raise money, Iowa Republicans are the ones now getting some bad press.  Minutes after Fisher’s fundraising email was sent, the Des Moines Register quickly published an article titled, “Iowa GOP using gun rights to raise campaign cash.”

Keep in mind that while the Republican Party of Iowa is pushing out emails and multiple Facebook posts, another school shooting was taking place in California.  Thankfully nobody was killed in that incident, but one student was critically wounded.  It’s also odd that the Register didn’t feel compelled to report on Muhlbauer’s statement, but instead chose to report on a fundraising appeal that mentioned those comments.

The wording of the Register’s article about Fisher’s email seems harmless enough, but it can also be easily viewed as the Republican Party raising money off of a very unfortunate situation.   While Second Amendment advocates and Republican activists cheer Fisher and the Iowa GOP’s strong stance, to many others, Iowa Republicans come off looking insensitive and out of touch.

As someone who is a strong supporter of our Second Amendment Rights, I wasn’t offended by Fisher’s statement or email.  I don’t think it was necessary to double down and use scare tactics to raise money, but to each their own.

The problem is that Fisher’s email looks tame compared to the Facebook activity by some of our Republicans leaders and legislators.  Less than 30 days have passed since the Newtown shooting, yet the term brazen might be the best way to describe some Republican legislators’ Facebook activity.

Numerous Iowa Republican legislators have posted cartoons, funny videos, and photos of themselves or family members posing with guns in the wake of the Newtown shooting.  One even posted a decorative plaque on which was inscribed something called, “The Shooter’s Prayer.”  While this “prayer” is poorly named, it’s something that most people would consider insensitive following what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last month.

Below are screenshots of some of the Facebook activity that I’m talking about.

The Iowa GOP posted this picture following the Fisher email, which shows a woman holding a baby in one hand and a shotgun in the other.

Posts like the ones above are popular on Facebook, but this kind of chest thumping about our Second Amendment rights does nothing to protect those rights.  In fact, I believe such behavior does more to threaten those rights than it does to reaffirm them.

Muhlbauer’s remarks proved that Democrats are at risk of over-reaching when it comes to new, aggressive gun restrictions.  On Wednesday not only was Muhlbauer dealing with a self created public relations problem, but the newspapers were speculating that little would be done in Iowa in terms of new gun regulations.  In many ways, conservatives were winning on the issue.  But as we saw with the Des Moines Register article, the tide can turn very quickly when conservatives try to push the envelope too far.

It’s also frustrating that while talking tough on Facebook about guns is in vogue, stories like the one that aired on WHOTV 13 this week about a group of Norwalk Dads, known as the WATCH D.O.G.S (Dads Of Great Students) doesn’t get any play on the social networking site.  Instead of taking to the Internet to flex their muscles, these Dads voluntarily roam the halls at their kid’s school to ensure safety.  Parental involvement is also something that deserves to be talked about after the Newtown tragedy as well.

I know that some will be upset with me for writing this article.  Some will argue that I’m not really a supporter of the Second Amendment, and how dare I criticize some of the most ardent supporters of the Second Amendment in the Iowa legislature.  I do so because they need to understand that their actions on Facebook are harmful to the issue that they care so deeply about.

Instead of getting “likes” and attaboys on Facebook, it would be more helpful for these individuals to help advance serious solutions to help prevent tragedies like the one in Newtown.  It’s easy to beat chests and cry foul on any proposal that the left makes.  The problem is that conservatives lose these battles far too often because they never truly engage, and they never actually offer solutions.

Maybe they are too busy updating their Facebook pages.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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