My fellow veteran, congressman turned out to just be another phony politician

Florida Congressman Brian Mast and Andy Wolf (left) during an interview for Popular Military in 2016. (Photo credit: Popular Military/Andy Wolf)

(The opinions expressed in this article of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Popular Military)

A Republican congressman and disabled Army veteran from Florida has broken ranks with his voter base by calling for a ban on AR-15- a move that could be considered as “alienating” to his constituents as it could be considered “treasonous.”

Brian Mast -a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal NCO who lost his legs in Afghanistan- heavily advertised his military service during his 2016 congressional campaign to represent Florida’s 18th district.

“I will serve you in Congress like I served you on the battlefield,” Mast wrote on his campaign site.

Interestingly enough, Mast’s campaign page even painted him as an ardent supporter of not only the Second Amendment, but defending the Constitution as a whole and preventing the erosion of one’s constitutional rights.

“I have carried a rifle and a pistol for most of my adult life, and fired both in defense of every American and myself,” he wrote. “The right to defend ourselves is God-given. It is not a right provided to us by our federal government, but rather the right to keep and bear arms is a right the federal government is sworn to protect. I will continue to uphold the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, and I will fight to protect our Second Amendment from all attempts to erode it.”

Despite videos of Mast claiming that “our country was founded with the intent for all Americans to have the right to bear arms” and adding that he didn’t want to “live in a country where criminals are the only ones that have access to guns,” Mast has taken a sudden -and shocking- about-face on the matter, calling for a ban of AR-15s in a New York Times opinion piece, titled “I’m Republican. I Appreciate Assault Weapons. And I Support a Ban.”

Immediately alienating his Second Amendment voting base by using the term “assault weapon,” (a political term made up in the 1980s that can theoretically encompass a wide variety of firearms, often based on aesthetics alone), Mast once again digs deep into his military background in an effort to explain why he would want to ban a semi-automatic firearm that has come to be known as “America’s rifle.”

“Most nights in Afghanistan, I wielded an M4 carbine and a .40-caliber pistol. The total barrel length of my M4 was approximately 14 inches with Trijicon ACOG sights, as well as an infrared laser,” he said. “I usually carried 10 magazines stacked with 20 rounds of 5.56-millimeter ammunition each.”

Interestingly enough, Mast claims he used 20-round reduced-capacity magazines, rather than the standard-capacity 30-round magazines issued en-masse since the 1990s.

“I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through that rifle, many in combat,” he added. “We used it because it was the most lethal-the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands. I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.”

Mast said his rifle was “very similar” to the AR-15 used in the recent shooting in the Florida town of Parkland, where Mast once lived, adding that he knew a coach who was killed in the shooting

“We are Americans and we like to be the best; we should never lose this trait,”he said. “The AR-15 is an excellent platform for recreational shooters to learn to be outstanding marksmen. Unfortunately, it is also an excellent platform for those who wish to kill the innocent.”

Mast then talks about his personal 9mm pistol, which he carries but feels provides little protection against a semi-automatic rifle that has been in commercial circulation since the late 1960s.

“I am made less safe by the threat of tactical rifles. I am confident I can eliminate an active shooter who is attacking with a pistol because the attacker would have to be close to me. But the defense my concealed 9-millimeter affords me is largely gone if the attacker is firing from beyond 40 yards, as he could easily do with the AR-15.”

Despite the fact that handguns are used in around nine times as many murders and eight times as many nonfatal violent crimes than rifles, shotguns and other firearms combined (as well as plenty of cases where an individual with a pistol stopped an individual with a rifle), and the rather specific creation of a distance of over 40 yards (with the exception of Las Vegas, most mass shootings in recent memory have occured in close-quarters environments), Mast seemed steadfast has he proposed what needed to be done.

“Defining what constitutes an assault or tactical firearm and not allowing them for future purchase just as we already prohibit the purchase of fully automatic firearms,” he wrote. “The exact definition of assault weapon will need to be determined. But we should all be able to agree that the civilian version of the very deadly weapon that the Army issued to me should certainly qualify. I would not support any version of a ban that results in confiscating existing legally owned firearms.”

Are we to believe this is the same “conservatarian” who told Israeli newspapers that he was against overreaching federal regulations?

““I believe in limited government, less taxation and adherence to the Constitution,” he told The Times of Israel in the Spring of 2016. “I don’t want the federal government involved in social issues, which for the most part should be decided upon at the state level.”

Verily, I had an opportunity to interview Mast in the summer of the same year, talking about his political run and even having personal conversations about The Constitution, veterans issues, being “at peace” as a fellow combat veteran and firearms rights supporter.

Needless to say, I was rather taken aback that the man I spoke with in 2016 would not only betray his constituency, but had the gall to believe himself worthy to determine what kind of firearm the American citizen “needs” for -as the Second Amendment so clearly states- “the security of a free State.”

To quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Ay, there’s the rub.”

As a fellow medically retired combat veteran and sacred keeper of the very same sacrosanct oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,” I’m admittedly very disappointed that Mast has seemingly either caved in to pressure or never believed in the Second Amendment’s true purpose to begin with.

The Founding Fathers didn’t care about hunting, shooting paper or sport. Being incredibly distrustful of standing armies (and having just won a war against them), they knew that a populace armed with military-grade weapons would prevent monopoly of force and deter tyranny.

Thanks, Congressman Mast, but no thanks. What you’re proposing is anything but “defending and upholding the Constitution,” and frankly, your credibility is now lost not only with your constituents, but one of your own.

Well, I’d venture to say at this point that it’s more than just one.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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