Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo surrounded himself with weapons and Republican allies May 30 to promote the merits of a federal bill to help law enforcement agencies deal with mentally ill criminals, redirecting his focus to policy and away from his recent personal and campaign miscues.
Crapo scheduled the event with reporters at southwest Boise gun shop. There, he blasted Congress’ and President Barack Obama’s bid to tighten gun laws while promoting reauthorization of a 2004 law that, among other things, directs federal taxpayer money for mental health courts.
A three-term Idaho lawmaker, Crapo is using the latest congressional recess to emphasize his reputation as a serious policy maker, not a man on his heels after his December drunken driving arrest and this month’s disclosure his campaign lost $250,000 on a loan-gone-sour. Despite turbulence, Crapo said he hasn’t thought of retiring or considered consequences for his 2016 re-election.
“No, the answer is definitely not,” Crapo said. “I think serving in the U.S. Senate is an incredible honor. I’ve been very engaged in the ‘Gang of Six’ and the other efforts to deal with our national debt crisis. I’m still fully engaged in that and all of the other aspects of my responsibilities in Washington, D.C.”
Crapo was arrested Dec. 23 after midnight in Alexandria, Va., and later pleaded guilty drunken driving, losing his license for a year.
And this month, Crapo announced that his ex-campaign manager shifted $250,000 from donors’ contributions to a high school buddy who later lost it with a Las Vegas company he now maintains stole the cash. The Federal Election Commission is scrutinizing Crapo’s updated campaign filings; efforts to recover the money have been fruitless, he said.
“It’s been very discouraging personally,” Crapo conceded, of his woes. “But it has not fortunately impacted my working relationships with any of my colleagues. And frankly, the reaction of the people of Idaho has been very wonderful.”
May 30 was among his first appearances with Idaho media this year and Crapo flanked himself with two GOP supporters, state Rep. Christy Perry of Nampa and Sen. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian.
The venue was Perry’s family’s gun shop in Boise, which features rifles, shotguns and handguns that she complains are too difficult to sell because of the burden of misguided federal requirements, including that she ask customers if they smoke marijuana or are a fugitive from justice.
Crapo said it could have been worse, had federal gun legislation prompted by December’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school not failed in the Senate in April.
“The response to restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens is not the appropriate reaction to this issue,” Crapo said. “The appropriate reaction is to focus on the causes of violence in our society, and to take the necessary actions to identify and treat mental illness.”
The alternative Crapo is promoting isn’t new: The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act, first passed a decade ago, aims to improve access to mental health services for those who commit crimes, as well as help law enforcement better respond to mental health issues. Its original price tag was $50 million, while the new bill includes $40 million from 2015 to 2019.
Hagedorn, one of the Idaho Legislature’s most ardent gun-rights advocates, said the bill Crapo is backing with 30 Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate co-sponsors is the appropriate response to reducing crime.”
“We should be focused more on behavioral health,” Hagedorn said. “We need to focus on that, instead of worrying about the federal government encroaching on our 2nd Amendment rights.”