After a mass shooting in 2009, Jason Lewis blamed the widespread use of antidepressants in the U.S. for the rise in gun violence.
“Why all the shootings?” Lewis tweeted. “Is there a connection with the 27 million Americans on anti-depressants (sic)? Jason thinks so. Do you?”
Why all the shootings? Is there a connection with the 27 million Americans on anti-depressants? Jason thinks so. Do you?
— Jason Lewis (@Jason2CD) August 5, 2009
Lewis, a Minnesota Republican elected to Congress in 2016, believes many factors cause gun violence: medication, immigration, terrorism, racism, gang culture and so-called gun-free zones. But there’s one thing Lewis doesn’t believe causes gun violence: guns.
In the wake of many of the high-profile mass shootings during the past decade, the Minnesota Republican took to Twitter or his radio show to express anger toward politicians who called for restrictions to gun access while theorizing that antidepressants — not guns — were responsible.
Members of both parties, though, have agreed that mental health care is key to stopping gun violence.
Lewis won his seat in 2016 by less than 2 percent — and with less than 47 percent of the vote — and is now in a tough re-election fight against the same Democratic candidate he faced then, Angie Craig. He has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, which gave him an “A” rating.
His radio career came under national scrutiny in July when CNN unearthed a 2012 clip of him defending Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut.” Limbaugh was mocking Fluke for asking Congress to require religious institutions such as Georgetown University, where she was attending law school, to cover birth control.
Lewis seemed to bemoan that men could no longer refer to women as “sluts.”
“Does a woman now have the right to behave — and I know there’s a double standard between the way men chase women and running and running around — you know, I’m not going to get there, but you know what I’m talking about. But it used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard,” Lewis said. “We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”
In addition to Limbaugh, Lewis also defended the Confederate flag on his show.
After an avowed racist who had embraced the flag and Nazi symbolism shot and killed eight worshipers and the pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, Lewis criticized politicians — including the Republican governor, Nikki Haley — for removing the flag from the grounds of the state Capitol.
“Do the defenders of the Confederate flag support somebody going into a church and shooting up a bunch of innocent people? Well of course not, no one supports that,” Lewis said, ignoring the widely circulated photo of the shooter posing holding the flag and a handgun. “So why is the flag an issue? Well, the flag’s an issue because those who are screaming the loudest about the tragedy in Charleston don’t want people to defend themselves by arming themselves.”
On the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, Lewis tweeted that the state’s “strict gun laws didn’t stop this tragedy” and that “we should focus on eliminating the ‘soft target.’”
A month later, President Barack Obama signed an executive order initiating various gun-control policies, joined at the White House by children who had written to him expressing concerns about gun violence.
Lewis referred to the children as “props.”
“Meanwhile, the debt crisis rolls on. Where are the adults?” Lewis wrote on Twitter.
After a gunman severely wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed six others in an assassination attempt near Tucson, Ariz., in 2011, he lamented that conservatives were again “finding themselves in the ‘crosshairs’ of blame for every conceivable misfortune.”
On Saturday, Lewis accused Craig, his opponent of “trying to buy this election” because of the support she received from groups calling for gun-control measures.
“My opponent loves to talk about local communities while she takes millions from outside ones financed by Bloomberg, Soros & Pelosi,” Lewis tweeted, referring to Everytown for Gun Safety, the group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Craig is also receiving support from Giffords’ political-action committee, which has spent more than $1.3 million on the race, according to OpenSecrets.
The NRA has contributed $9,950 to Lewis’ campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings.