Joni Ernst solicited donations off her support for an NRA bill less than 72 hours after Parkland anniversary, Aurora shooting

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Joni Ernst’s official U.S. Senate portrait, 2019.

Three days after the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 and wounded 14, and two days after a workplace shooting in Aurora, Illinois, that killed five and wounded five police officers, Sen. Joni Ernst launched a fundraising effort based on her support for a top NRA legislative priority.

On Sunday, Ernst tweeted her support for a so-called “National Right to Carry,” and included a link to “Support the 2nd Amendment.”

The link goes to Joni for Iowa, the website for Ernst’s 2020 reelection campaign. The linked page has a Yes/No survey, “Should Americans have the right to carry in all 50 states?” At the bottom of the survey, people are encouraged to click on another link “Support the 2nd Amendment Here.” That link goes to a page soliciting donations for Ernst’s reelection campaign.

Despite calling it just a national right to carry, the proposal Ernst is referring to would allow anyone with a concealed carry permit issued by their home state to carry a concealed gun in any state that allows concealed carry.

Passing a national right to carry bill has been one of the NRA’s top legislative priorities for a decade, but it has repeatedly failed to pass Congress. Last month, she signed on as a co-sponsor of the latest version of the bill (which is identical to the 2017 version that Ernst also co-sponsored).

“Individual states, like Iowa, know the policies that work best for their communities. This legislation is a sensible solution to permit law-abiding citizens with legal concealed carry privileges to safely conceal carry in other states that allow it,” Ernst said in a Jan. 11 statement about her co-sponsorship of the bill, on her Senate website.

According to that statement, the “bill would not preempt any state law [regarding concealed carry].” As many legal scholars have pointed out, that’s not true.

Under the bill, someone with a concealed carry permit from a state that has relatively lax standards regarding who qualifies for a permit (South Dakota, for example) would be able to carry in a state with stricter standards (such as California), where that person would never qualify for a permit.

Ernst’s close association with the NRA shouldn’t be a surprise. Neither should the indifference towards the Parkland anniversary or the Aurora shooting implied by the timing of her fundraising tweet.

Even though Ernst is still in her first term in the U.S Senate, she is already one of the top recipients of NRA spending.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ernst received $9,900 in direct campaign contributions from the NRA, between 2014 and 2017. During the same period, she also received support in the form of $322,064 in independent expenditures, and the NRA has spent $2,792,789 attacking candidates running against Ernst.

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Ernst was questioned about the NRA’s spending on her behalf, when she appeared on Face the Nation on March 25, 2018, the day after the first March for Our Lives.

“I want to ask you, because you are one of the top 10 recipients of NRA funding in the Senate, your image was being held up by some of those protesters at the rally here in Washington yesterday,” the moderator said. “I wonder how you are responding to these young activists who are calling for gun control.”

North Liberty High School and Middle School students protest gun violence in schools at the corner of Forevergreen road and Highway 965. Friday, March 2, 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Ernst started her reply by pointing out that “Many outside organizations will run advertisements,” and that as a candidate, the law prevents her from asking them to stop doing so.

Asked if she was attempting to distance herself from the NRA, Ernst replied, “I am — no, I am not separating myself from the NRA.”

Pressed for what she would tell the students who organized March for Our Lives in response to the lack of political action on gun control following the Parkland shooting, Ernst eventually said, “what we don’t want to do as a nation is start stripping rights away from law-abiding citizens.”

Ernst’s typical response to a mass shooting, such as the Aurora shooting on Friday, is to issue a statement about the power of prayer. It’s what she did following the October 2017 massacre in Las Vegas, in which a single gunman killed 58 and wounded almost 500.

As of noon on Feb. 18, Ernst had not tweeted about the Feb. 15 mass shooting in Aurora.

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