I knew when I decided to participate in proposing gun legislation with senators from both sides of the aisle, I would disappoint people who mean a lot to me.
Indeed, that has happened. I have disappointed colleagues and staff and constituents and friends. Perhaps even some family members.
But an odd thing happened right alongside that disappointment. The inspiration I felt on that first day of being sworn in as a senator came flooding back to me. I was reminded that there are times when I should lead without waiting for the winds of public opinion to settle an issue. It felt right to contribute to being a part of the breeze that is moving a national dialogue forward as Americans struggle with the difficulties involved with balancing public safety and personal liberties.
I know the words and ideas I expressed were unvarnished and might have benefited from some grooming by messaging experts. But they came from my heart and they felt right.
Serving is an honor. Listening to the voices of the people is an obligation. I know life events influence my perspective on issues. When 49 people died in June 2016 at an Orlando night club, I was changed. When 58 died in October of 2017 at a Las Vegas concert, I was changed. When 26 died in a Texas church a month later, I was changed. One month ago, on Valentine’s Day, 17 people were slaughtered at a Florida school, and I was changed some more.
I thank God that life events and people’s pain change me.
Chris Cox, a leading NRA spokesman, said this: “If we want to prevent future atrocities, we must look for solutions that keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans.”
I agree with Cox’s statement completely, and as a senator I am called on to participate in the search for solutions. I am open to change and new perspectives. Using the tool of a background check to keep guns out of the hands of convicts, mentally ill persons requiring involuntary commitment, drug addicts and stalkers is reasonable.
And I know some things have not changed.
What hasn’t changed is my absolute conviction that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of law-abiding Americans to bear arms.
What hasn’t changed is my admiration and appreciation of Americans who engage in the dialogue centered on “how do we become a better nation?”
What hasn’t changed is my rock-solid view that elections matter, and that after four years my constituents will say one of two things to me: Farewell or let’s do it again.
And what else do I know about serving in the Senate?
I know I get a seat at the table.
I know I will get feedback from lots of folks — sometimes appreciation, sometimes damnation.
I know I get to stretch and learn and my views on some of the issues may be reshaped.
Do I know if the Senate is a good part-time job for me? Check back in a year, please.
Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.