We think Rep. Roger Skraba should be reconsidering the company he keeps.
We actually had some hope that Rep. Skraba could make a decent lawmaker in St. Paul. Over the years, he has run for any number of offices, variably as a DFLer, an Independent, or a Republican. He’s made it clear he’s not overtly partisan, at least in the past, and his priorities often seem at odds with the latest political label he’s chosen for himself. We’ve generally thought of him as a moderate, a label that we believe still describes most residents of the Iron Range.
Skraba is also a hard worker, as his surprise victory over Rep. Rob Ecklund attests.
Yet, the Ely lawmaker seems to have a penchant for bringing people to Ely who represent extremist views that are often at odds with reality. His March 4 town hall, which featured the bombastic blowhard Sen. Nathan Wesenberg was just the most recent example.
Wesenberg came to Ely from his home in Little Falls with the clear intention of stoking conspiracy theories and paranoia over what is, for the most part, relatively mundane gun safety legislation currently percolating through various committees in St. Paul. He spun one whopper after another. At one point, he claimed that legislation that would close the background check loophole for private firearms sales would prevent an individual from loaning a gun to a hunting partner without a background check, even though the laws in question expressly allow for lending of guns in such circumstances without a background check. The background checks apply only to actual gun sales, they are clearly constitutional, and have been required of gun stores for years. The vast majority of Americans support closing this loophole in the law.
Contrary to Sen. Wesenberg’s claim, background checks don’t create a data base of gun owners. Federal law requires that the checks be deleted from the federal data base within 24 hours, unless the background check reveals the purchaser is prohibited for some reason from owning a firearm.
Sen. Wesenberg also made it clear he lacks an understanding of the difference between a red flag law and a 72-hour psychiatric hold and told attendees at the recent Ely event that the law allows anyone to call police and have them confiscate your guns without due process. We suggest Sen. Wesenberg actually read the legislation before his next rabble rouse in Ely, since the law clearly requires due process, including factual evidence, presented at a hearing in a court of law. We, of course, recognize that factual evidence and Sen. Wesenberg may not be well acquainted, as is often the case with individuals who self-righteously claim to have all the answers.
Rep. Skraba clearly made a mistake by inviting Wesenberg, who was not only ill-informed but also belligerent and rude, at times, in contrast to Skraba’s efforts to be a tad more solicitous to his assembled constituents.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t Skraba’s first such error. As we reported last summer, he helped arrange a showing of “2000 Mules” last summer as a kind of campaign kickoff in Ely. While popular with many in the radicalized GOP base, the movie is an embarrassing piece of propaganda that alleges a massive, multi-state effort to stuff ballot boxes in key battleground races in support of then-candidate Joe Biden. It’s a slickly-produced and astonishing tale and the producers provided exactly zero evidence other than scary music and invented props to support it. By the time the movie was mercifully over, anyone capable of critical thought would have little trouble identifying the movie’s fatal flaws.
It’s unfortunate that Rep. Skraba feels the need to align himself with the conspiracy peddlers and other extremists in the GOP, as if doing so is somehow necessary to convince them that he’s really one of them.
Perhaps Rep. Skraba should reconsider if he really wants to be aligned with some of the most extreme elements of a political party that has veered far from the mainstream in recent years. While most residents of the area would never agree to actual gun confiscation, in our experience most recognize that some basic and perfectly constitutional regulation of gun use in this country may have at least a role to play in helping to stem this country’s alarming rate of gun violence. To suggest that a universal background check law or a red flag law takes us down the road to confiscation is utter nonsense and politicians, like Sen. Wesenberg demonstrate nothing but contempt for the voters when they spout such falsehoods at events advertised as listening sessions.
For a rookie lawmaker, like Rep. Skraba, we’d like to suggest it’s not a good look.