Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine's (Va.) hometown newspaper castigated him on Wednesday over his recent comments blaming the National Rifle Association for Congress not passing federal gun-control measures.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board published a rebuke of Kaine, suggesting that the senator's claim Sunday that the NRA "has basically been able to gridlock everything in Congress now for nearly decades" was hypocritical and made in bad faith.
Kaine has also said that his colleagues on Capitol Hill are "afraid of the NRA."
The Times-Dispatch editorial hit Kaine for suggesting that the majority of Congress wants to pass gun control but fails to act on legislation because of the pervasive influence of the NRA and other Second Amendment groups. This view, the newspaper argued, implies that Kaine's colleagues have no ideas of their own and only serve to do "the bidding" of their donors.
"Behind that argument lies an assumption of bad faith: that lawmakers actually favor gun control, and they oppose it—and their own consciences—only because of lobbyist pressure," the editorial board wrote. "Do Kaine's colleagues know he holds them in such low regard?"
The editorial board pointed out that Kaine has a checkered history on labor issues, supporting Virginia's right-to-work law before reversing course upon being tapped as Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016. The paper wrote that the reversal, accompanied by campaign finance disclosures showing that union organizations make up two of Kaine's top 10 donors, could lead one to imply—relying upon an assumption of bad faith—that Kaine "does the bidding of labor-union donors."
Kaine's hometown paper suggested the senator refrain from taking "abrasive cheap shots" at his colleagues and Second Amendment groups.
"Maybe he should give his pro-gun-rights colleagues a little more credit," the editorial board wrote.
The editorial came one day after Kaine and his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee sent a letter to the committee's chairman and ranking member—Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), respectively—requesting a hearing on school shootings.
"As senators, it is our responsibility to address gun violence like the public health crisis that it is, investigate the causes of these deadly acts of violence and hatred, and make policy changes to ensure that they no longer happen," Kaine and his colleagues wrote.
Throughout his long political career, Kaine has had a convoluted relationship with the Second Amendment.
As the Washington Post previously noted, Kaine, while serving as mayor of Richmond, Virginia, pushed for stronger gun-control measures to tackle the crack and cocaine epidemic.
"There is no issue in the city that is more important than gun violence," Kaine said at the time. "I can't think of an issue I'd rather be aligned with than this."
In 2000, Kaine generated controversy by using public funds and resources in support of a political cause, sending citizens to Washington, D.C. to attend the Million Moms March, a gun-control rally.
As a statewide candidate for lieutenant governor and governor, however, Kaine embraced the Second Amendment and promised that he would "not propose any new gun laws." The senator stayed true to his word until the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007. The shooting, which killed 32 students and teachers, spurred Kaine to push for legislation requiring background checks for sales at gun shows. Although that bill failed to make it through the Virginia General Assembly, Kaine did act unilaterally—via executive order—to limit the sale of guns to individuals forced to undergo involuntary mental health treatment.
Since joining the Senate in 2012, Kaine has been a vocal advocate for gun-control measures. In February, the senator joined his Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation that would ban the sale and transfer of "military-style assault weapons."