Facing Controversy, Liberals Use Gun Control As a Shield

NBA's Kerr the latest to tout gun control advocacy in midst of scandal

Weinstein Kerr Northam Trudeau

In a press conference last Thursday, reporters pressed Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr about the NBA's attempts to suppress support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.

Asked if China's human rights abuses have come up during his visits to the country on behalf of the NBA, Kerr said they had not—and went on to decry America's "record of human rights abuses," pointing to gun rights as an example.

"People in China didn't ask me about, you know, people owning AR-15s and mowing each other down in a mall," Kerr said, adding that "the world is a complex place and there's more gray than black and white."

Kerr did not elaborate on why he believes the civilian right to own certain rifles or the criminal use of firearms constitutes a human rights abuse, but his pivot to the issue as he and his league sought to defuse a mounting scandal is just the latest example of progressive figures touting their support for gun control as they seek to defuse scandals that have supporters across party lines.

Others include Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, film producer Harvey Weinstein, and Virginia governor Ralph Northam (D.).

In the midst of a scandal sparked by revelations that he had dressed in blackface in his late 20s, Trudeau said he would institute a new gun ban if reelected later this month.

Trudeau and the Liberal Party have long supported stricter gun control in Canada. Last year, Trudeau called for further restrictions on the ownership of handguns and certain rifles. But it wasn't until a picture surfaced depicting Trudeau wearing dark makeup on his face and hands during an Arabian-themed party in 2001 that he announced he would campaign for confiscating the firearms.

"Gun violence in Canada is rising, and we're doing something about it," he announced in his first major policy proposal since the photo surfaced. "We're taking concrete steps to strengthen gun control by banning military-style assault rifles that have no place in Canada."

Virginia governor Ralph Northam (D.) and attorney general Mark Herring (D.) followed a similar strategy in their first major policy remarks after their own blackface scandals. Northam apologized earlier this year for appearing in a picture found in one of his yearbooks that featured a man in blackface and another in a KKK robe. In the subsequent uproar, Herring admitted that he too had worn blackface.

Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, also a Democrat, appeared alongside Northam and Herring in their first major post-scandal press conference. It was also Fairfax's first significant political appearance since being accused of sexual assault by two women.

The three scandal-ridden Democrats called for the Virginia legislature to consider new gun bans and restrictions during a special session mandated by Northam.

"No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home," Northam said. "But that is what our society has come to because we fail to act on gun violence."

Facing dozens of accusations of sexual harassment and even rape, film producer and Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein may have been the first to employ the "pivot-to-gun-control" strategy back in 2017. In his first statement after the emergence of the accusations, Weinstein said he was going to try to make amends for his many wrongdoings by attacking the NRA.

"I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I've decided that I'm going to give the NRA my full attention," Weinstein told the New York Times in October 2017. "I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I'm going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah."

Gun control groups publicly rejected any help from Weinstein, and no effort to take on the NRA has emerged from him over the past two years.

Northam, Herring, and Fairfax, meanwhile, have seen no results from their gun control push. The governor's special session ended without any new gun control laws passing.

It is unclear if Kerr or Trudeau's gun control gambit will fare better than Weinstein's or Northam's did. The NBA controversy is continuing apace, and polling from the Toronto Sun indicates Canadians do not support Trudeau's gun ban. Trudeau's blackface controversy has not gone away either, as even children are now grilling him on his racist costumes.