JEFFERSON CITY — In a sign of how closely Missouri politics and the state’s gun culture are tied, the use of deadly weapons as a campaign tool extends further than the pictures of candidates shooting guns.
According to state campaign finance records, Missouri politicians spent more than $34,000 over the past five years buying guns to give away as campaign fundraising items.
Records show politicians may be on pace to set a record this year. Through the first three months of 2022, candidates for office have spent $7,687 on firearms for raffles, putting them on pace to overtake 2014, when $20,485 was spent in the entire year.
“In my area, everybody likes guns. Anytime you go to anywhere there’s always a gun to be won. It’s always been just common,” Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, earlier told the Post-Dispatch.
The Bootheel-area lawmaker once introduced legislation requiring everyone in the state between the ages of 18 and 35 to own an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. He later said it was aimed at baiting gun control advocates, and the measure never moved forward.
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The spending on firearms comes as the nation is again grappling with the horror of a mass shooter taking innocent lives. The latest incident in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Unlike prior years, Missouri’s GOP-controlled Legislature did not send any significant gun-related legislation to Republican Gov. Mike Parson during their annual session.
But in recent years, the Republican super majority has loosened restrictions on gun ownership, as well as passed a law allowing people to sue local law enforcement if they believe police have interfered with their Second Amendment rights.
The measure, called the Second Amendment Preservation Act, was signed by Gov. Mike Parson at a gun store last year.
Pro-gun forces unsuccessfully pushed legislation this spring that would have expanded the use of deadly force. Opponents, include local prosecutors, called it the “Make Murder Legal Act.”
They also failed again to get legislation across the finish line that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in churches and on public transit.
Both items are expected to be back before the Legislature next year.
Among state lawmakers who have held gun raffles is Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, who wrote a campaign check for $1,747 for guns for future fundraisers.
Basye is term limited and cannot seek another term in the House.
In 2021, Rep. Barry Hovis, R-Whitewater, spent $1,600 on firearms for raffles.
Not all of the spending was for a gun purchase. Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Norwood, spent $120 in 2020 to buy a membership at a gun club in order to do a photo shoot for a campaign ad.
Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, reported spending $25 in 2018 to purchase a table at a gun show in Wentzville.
Former Gov. Eric Greitens, who is now running for U.S. Senate, made waves in his 2016 bid for office by blasting away on a military-style machine gun as part of his branding as a pro-gun former Navy Seal.
Six years and a resignation from office later, Greitens is again using guns as a campaign tool.
In late April, Greitens released a video of himself and Donald Trump Jr. shooting guns at an outdoor range.
The video was titled: “Striking fear into the hearts of liberals, RINOs, and the fake media.”