Only two U.S. senators from blue states have “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association, and Cory Gardner is one of them. He also has a 100% rating from Gun Owners of America and a 0% rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
His voting record is unequivocally pro-gun and his campaign donations (nearly $4 million from the NRA) reflect that. Yet Gardner’s public statements about gun violence demonstrate a reluctance to acknowledge his own position on the issue.
When questioned directly by reporters, Gardner becomes a moving target, evading questions and avoiding direct answers, often by claiming he hasn’t yet read legislation that was introduced months or even years earlier.
President Trump’s on-again, off-again support for universal background checks has complicated Gardner’s attempt to avoid the issue. Following Trump’s call for “red flag” legislation following the Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso, 9News anchor Kyle Clark was forced to ambush Gardner on the street to get a comment.
Clark: “Do you support President Trump’s call for “red flag” gun control?”
Gardner: “I’m certainly going to look at it, study it, and make sure it’s something that doesn’t violate rights while it does the right thing for the people of Colorado.”
Clark: “Senator Rubio (R-FL) has had a bill like that for a while, so I assume you or your staff has looked at that, [Gardner nods]. Do you think that’s a good idea?”
Gardner: “Look we have to do what’s right by Colorado and we have to make sure we’re right by the Constitution and do what’s right to prevent this kind of horrific event from ever happening again.”
That same day Gardner refused to give any substantive answer to a local journalist, CNN’s Clare Foran published a feature piece on Gardner and the gun issue. The article cited numerous sources, including the Colorado Times Recorder’s reporting on Gardner’s radio statements that he didn’t think that any version of Colorado’s red flag law (neither the failed 2018 bill nor the law passed this year) were constitutional.
Foran’s report also featured quotes from gun rights advocates Dudley Brown and Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, both of whom said Gardner had told them privately that he opposes red flag legislation:
“Brown of the National Association for Gun Rights told CNN that Gardner has told him that he does not support red flag laws.
‘He has voiced directly to me and to one of the more prominent sheriffs in the state directly that he is opposed to red flag laws and thinks they’re unconstitutional,’ Brown said, adding, however, that the senator ‘didn’t commit to voting against any specific proposals.’
Weld County, Colorado Sheriff Steve Reams, an outspoken opponent of the state’s red flag law, said that he has also had a chance to speak with Gardner about red flag laws.
‘He has made his position clear with me,’ Reams told CNN, ‘he said he wasn’t supportive of red flag legislation.'”
Reached by phone, Sheriff Reams confirmed that he and Brown met together with Gardner.
“Dudley & I were in DC talking to different senators and congressman and we stopped into Sen. Gardner’s office to talk about red flag bills and that’s when he made the comments that he did.”
Reams didn’t recall the exact date of the conversation but said he believed it occurred in May or June. Mid-May seems likely, as Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY04) posted a video of Sheriff Reams and himself discussing red flag laws in his DC office on May 17.
Private statements such as these belie the noncommittal responses Gardner continues to give in public, such as his Aug 13 response at an Arvada event, where Gardner told a constituent who asked if he supports a red flag bill that he’d “have to see what’s in it.”
Gardner professed to be similarly uninformed when speaking to a reporter in DC earlier this month. Reporter Alexander Bolton profiled Gardner along with a dozen other GOP senators for The Hill on Sept. 19, “The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation.” Bolton noted Gardner’s vote against a previous version of the Manchin-Toomey background check bill, then quoted the junior senator from Colorado giving an evasive non-answer that will sound familiar:
Gardner this past week declined to say whether he would consider voting for Manchin-Toomey and expressed interest in knowing what changes might be made to the legislation.
“Are they talking about changing it? I haven’t looked at the recent changes,” he said.
There is one recent example of Gardner making his position plain in public on this issue. Speaking at an unlisted but free and public event at the Chabad Jewish Community Center in Aspen on Aug. 5, Gardner said simply, “I don’t support gun control.”
Either that statement or his voting record earned the attention of several young Pitkin County residents last week. On Sept. 20, the Aspen Times published a letter to the editor from eight Aspen County Day middle schoolers. The students called for stricter regulations on guns and pleaded for decisive political action from those old enough to cast a ballot:
A vote for Sen. Cory Gardner may as well be loading a gun for the next shooting.