Here’s what Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a press scrum after a House session last week, when he was asked about the potential for gun legislation and specifically about expanded background checks:
“I know there are ongoing conversations, kind of behind-the-scenes between members who are trying to work to find consensus on solutions that will really help reduce putting guns in the hands of potentially dangerous criminals. I think we all share that goal,” said Daudt, a Republican from Crown. “I know that those conversations are happening. I expect, or I hope, that those conversations can be fruitful and we can find some legislation that can get support of the Legislature.”
If that sounds to you like Daudt was saying there’s the possibility of a deal on expanded background checks, you would not be alone. His comments — captured on an audio recording — drew lots of media coverage, seemingly a glimmer of hope for supporters of stricter gun laws despite fervent opposition in Daudt’s own caucus.
But if that’s how you understood those words, you’d be wrong, according to Daudt. He took to the Facebook page of a gun-rights advocate to deny that’s what he meant:
“This is total fake news by the drive-by media,” Daudt wrote. “I have a perfect voting record on guns since I’ve been in the Legislature and I have the highest ratings with every group that rates our actual votes. The media doesn’t understand gun issues enough to understand what I was even talking about. This is unfortunately all too common with our media. Appreciate the support from people who know how strong I’ve been on guns. Point the arrows out folks.”
He continued: “I was very precise in my answer. Also, our Legislature is pro-Second Amendment, saying ‘legislation that can gain the support of the Legislature’ should automatically tell you it would need to gain the support of pro-Second Amendment supporters like myself.”
If you’ve been listening to Daudt for a few years, this vague commitment had a familiar ring: He “hopes” something can “get support of the Legislature.” But it also served a definite purpose. Daudt gave a sliver of cover to his suburban members who fear anti-gun money in the fall election and whose constituents support stricter gun laws. After it blew up, he was able to rely on plausible deniability to appease gun-rights advocates on social media. It was, in short, a tour de force.