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Pulling teeth on the Senate campaign trail

Globe Staff

IT STARTED OFF as simple idea. Send a questionnaire to the various major-party candidates for the US Senate, querying them on their stands on gun safety and climate change, and then write a column (or two) based on their answers.

After all, anyone bold enough to declare him or herself senatorial timber surely knows where he or she stands on the issues of the day, right?

Ha! I should have gone to dental school first, to learn the tricky process of tooth-extraction.

Today, let’s do the gun-safety queries.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office responded promptly with her answers — and this caveat: “Please note the following responses are on background.” That is, not attributed to anyone by name or specific title. Given that my questions were directed to the candidate — “Where are you on these issues” — and that I wanted the answers in their voices, that posed a problem. That problem got resolved, but if the senator were, say, a Civil War general in dire need of a nickname, I’d assign her (or at least her press office) Winfield Scott’s moniker: “Old Fuss and Feathers.”

Still, Warren wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as Republican Geoff Diehl, the Whitman state rep who sees a US senator when he gazes in the glass. I asked four question on guns. He gave a specific answer to exactly none of them. As in, zero. Goose egg. Null set.


When I noted the same to Holly Robichaud, his chief strategist, she e-mailed back: “Those are Geoff’s responses.” Nonresponses, I think Holly meant.

If one were to assign him a Civil War nickname, Diehl’s would be: “Old Duck and Dodge.”

However, Diehl made fellow Republican John Kingston look good, which is saying something, considering that Kingston sidestepped two of the four gun questions. Let’s call him: “Old Mealy Mouth.”


Good news, however. Republican Beth Lindstrom detailed her stands in a refreshingly forthright manner. She’s for background checks for all gun sales and supports “red flag” legislation allowing a judge to order the confiscation of weapons from someone deemed at real risk of using guns to harm themselves or others. Although Lindstrom supports the Massachusetts assault weapons ban, she says the issue should be left to the states. So, too, should the matter of whether police chiefs should have discretion to deny gun permits, she said.

Let’s call her: “Old Battle Ready.”

Compare that to Old Duck and Dodge Diehl. So vague were ODD’s answers that it’s hard even to assign a response to a question. Still, let’s try. An assault weapons ban? ODD noted that “as a father of two daughters attending public school, I worry like all parents,” but went on to say: “However, we cannot trample on the bill of rights for law abiding people.”

The gun show loophole: Diehl said that all gun sales in Massachusetts are already subject to background checks. Alas, all gun sales in the US are not — which you’d think a candidate for US Senate would know.

Red Flag legislation: ODD noted red flags are sometimes ignored. Last week, he voted no on red flag legislation being debated on Beacon Hill. Finally, he ducked completely on more discretion for police chiefs.


As for Kingston, he dodged on whether he supports an assault weapons ban and, though he sounded favorably inclined, stopped short of endorsing red flag legislation. He opposes more discretion for police chiefs but does support background checks for all gun purchases.

And finally, incumbent Warren. To be fair, once I made it clear to her press aide that I needed on-the-record responses attributable to Warren, and not links to various articles about her stands, she produced them. Warren is a yes on all four gun safety issues, with the caveat that red flag gun laws must have “robust due process measures.”

So there you have it, some answers — or lack thereof — to mull as you decide your vote.

And to the candidates, don’t worry, the dental work is on me.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.