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RACHEL MADDOW

Asked about gun violence, Ron Johnson talks about Hunter Biden

As negotiations continue over how best to respond to mass shootings, Sen. Ron Johnson was asked about which measures he might be willing to support. It didn’t go especially well.

Here’s what the Wisconsin Republican told CNN:

“My main point on any kind of gun control is, let’s enforce the laws that we have. And let’s do it within a justice system that applies the laws equally. Maybe we should start with what Hunter Biden did in terms of his own background checks.”

Soon after, a Washington Post reporter asked Johnson about waiting periods for gun sales to buyers under the age of 21. “Before we pass anything new,” the GOP senator replied, “let’s enforce the laws we already have. Let’s start with Hunter Biden.”

On the one hand, I’ll gladly give Johnson credit for message discipline. On the other hand, there’s … everything else.

Right off the bat, it’s worth noting for context that the Wisconsin Republican is running for re-election this year in a state President Joe Biden narrowly won two years ago. With this in mind, in theory, one might assume that Johnson would take this opportunity to present himself to voters as a responsible and mature mainstream policymaker interested in solving problems that matter to the public.

In practice, however, the incumbent senator appears far more interested in positioning himself as a far-right ideologue and conspiracy theorist.

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What’s more, hearing Republicans talk about “enforcing the laws that we have” is odd given the party’s persistent refusal to confirm ATF nominees.

But let’s not miss the forest for the trees. Mass shootings are claiming American lives. It is a life-or-death issue of ongoing importance to countless families nationwide.

It’s against this backdrop that senators from both parties are currently engaged in a weeks-long negotiating process, exploring whether anything can be done to curtail gun violence and possibly save lives. There have been hints of progress as a result of these talks, but as lawmakers work on difficult details, questions remain as to when and whether a deal might come together.

The process might be easier if guys like Johnson — a lawmaker whom Republicans put in charge of the Senate Homeland Security Committee for six long years — focused less on weird ideas about the president’s son and more on governing.

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