After speaking at length to business people in Lexington last week without once mentioning a looming threat to their Second Amendment rights, Sen. Mitch McConnell turned into a raving conspiracist overnight, sending out emails and recorded phone messages to Kentuckians last weekend warning "they're coming for your guns."
The alarms sounded by McConnell and his Tea Party campaign manager, Jesse Benton, are way over the top and obviously aimed at stirring up fears along with some campaign donations.
No one should be surprised that McConnell would stoop to scare tactics this early in the debate over how to better protect Americans from gun violence.
But it's still disappointing, given his role as the Senate's Republican leader and the political opening provided by a series of massacres.
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Americans are ready for a smart, reasoned discussion of gun control. They want some assurances that their elected Congress answers to them and not the National Rifle Association and its gun industry patrons.
The reforms recently proposed by President Barack Obama and assailed by McConnell are not radical nor a threat to gun owners or the Constitution. Remember the Second Amendment extols the virtues of a "well-regulated militia" not an unregulated trade in weapons designed to slaughter a crowd in the blink of an eye.
People who buy guns at a gun shop already must undergo a background check. Congress is being asked to require the same background check of buyers at gun shows.
How would applying the same standard in both settings "gut our Constitution" as Benton warned in his email?
The "overstepping" executive orders bemoaned by McConnell are remarkable mainly for their modesty. Only in the paranoid mind does again allowing federal researchers to study gun deaths and injuries equal "gun grabbing."
It's irresponsible and cynical of McConnell to fan groundless fears and suspicions.
But he is in a bit of a pickle. The chances are increasing that the Tea Party will recruit a challenger for him in next year's Republican primary. How does McConnell come off as the seasoned, sober, responsible leader he tried to project at the Commerce Lexington luncheon, while also playing to the contingent that keeps an eye peeled for black helicopters?
McConnell is falling back on old reliable scare tactics. But he could be running a risk if it turns out most Kentucky voters want a sober, responsible leader, after all.