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Mark McCloskey contends notoriety from gun incident can propel him to the Senate

Attorney Mark McCloskey speaks to a ballroom of people in St. Charles about why he should be Missouri's next senator at the state GOP's annual Lincoln Days on Feb. 12, 2022. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long also attended the candidate forum.
Eric Schmid
St. Louis Public Radio
Attorney Mark McCloskey speaks to a ballroom of people in St. Charles about why he should be Missouri's next senator at the state GOP's annual Lincoln Days on Feb. 12.

Mark McCloskey is trying to leverage the nationwide attention he and his wife received in 2020 into a successful campaign for a Missouri U.S. Senate seat.

But whether that actually happens, McCloskey said, depends on whether GOP voters can connect the dots. He pointed to the results of a recent poll that he contends signals that he could prevail in a crowded primary.

“And when they ask the question ‘who are you going to vote for,’ I poll fairly low,” McCloskey said. “If you learn that this guy Mark McCloskey running for Senate is the pink shirt guy at the front of his porch with an AR-15, I’m in a dead heat for the lead.”

What McCloskey is referring to is a 2020 incident in which he and his wife, Patty, were photographed outside their Central West End home brandishing guns while people protesting then-Mayor Lyda Krewson walked by their house. It was a moment that made the McCloskeys popular in GOP circles but villains among more liberal-minded people.

McCloskey said that he and his wife went to campaign for then-President Donald Trump in 2020. And eventually, people started asking him if he’d be interested in running for the U.S. Senate after Sen. Roy Blunt decided not to run for a third term.

“We found this to be a developing calling — that it was something that was placed before us that we had to do,” McCloskey said.

Some of the people who walked by McCloskey’s house in 2020 have strongly disputed the idea that they were targeting the two attorneys’ property or lives — but were instead taking a shortcut to Krewson’s house. When asked about that contention, McCloskey said: “We are in a gated community that is all private property. Every inch inside my gate is as private as your living room.

“As much as the mainstream media likes to report it as ‘peaceful social justice warriors,’ walking by my house on the way to the mayor’s house, that’s a nice phrase — but it’s complete B.S.,” he said.

Asked if he and his wife didn’t engage in safe or responsible use of guns, McCloskey said: “I never put my finger inside the trigger area.

“I never pointed that rifle at anybody. I held it in the up, ready position the entire time,” he said. “Now my wife, who was less familiar with firearms, found the more effective manner was to display a little more aggressive weaponry. It held the mob off. That’s the purpose of the 2nd Amendment … it was an effective deterrent.”

Ultimately, the McCloskeys pleaded guilty and paid relatively small fines. They also have to perform community service. Both received pardons from Gov. Mike Parson.

Special prosecutor Richard Callahan said that McCloskey “purposefully placed other persons in apprehension of physical injury.”

“I laughed out loud and said ‘hell yes I did! That’s what the guns were for, right?” McCloskey said. “If that’s a crime in Missouri, I did it. I can’t deny it. I’d do it again.”

 Mark and Patricia McCloskey point guns at protesters in front of their Central West End home on June 28, 2020.
Bill Greenblatt
Mark and Patricia McCloskey have made a 2020 incident in front of their home where they brandished guns at demonstrators a campaign selling point.

Opposed to gun control measures

On the broader issue, McCloskey is not in favor of placing further restrictions on firearms — adding that there are already laws in place that are meant to prevent misuse of guns.

He also opposes expanding background checks or embracing a so-called red flag law that would create a legal process to disarm people who are threats to themselves or others. He fears that type of law could be abused to take away guns from people who have done nothing wrong.

“All of them I’ve seen, first of all, have the power of the state or your ex-wife or your ex-girlfriend or your ex-boyfriend to report you as a danger to yourself or others,” McCloskey said. “Once the government takes your weapons and once the government deprives you of your rights, it is very, very difficult to retrieve them.”

McCloskey also is not enthused about proposals that require someone to be at least 21 in order to purchase a gun. He said if people are allowed to vote when they’re 18, they should be able to procure a firearm.

“How can the same people who say you’re competent to vote for president at the age of 18 say you’re not competent to own a weapon?” McCloskey said. “Because your vote is a more potent weapon potentially than anything that projects lead into the atmosphere.”

Back abortion bans — even in cases or rape or incest

McCloskey also emphasized on the program that he's strongly opposed to abortion rights and would like to see the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. If that happens, Missouri would ban most abortions, with the exception of medical emergencies.

He said he supports Missouri’s measure, which would take effect if Roe v. Wade is thrown out, not including exceptions for rape or incest.

“From the moment of conception, God gives us a soul,” McCloskey said. “And from that moment, we’ve got a right to live out that life for our full potential.”

He doesn’t believe that lack of exceptions in Missouri’s law for people who become pregnant because of rape or incest would be a bridge too far for voters — even Missourians who personally feel that abortion is wrong.

“The goal of people on my side of the fence is making people know that all overturning Roe v. Wade will return the right of self-control to the states on that issue,” McCloskey said. “We have a democracy or democratic republic in this country where if you don’t like the policies in your state, you can vote out the people that vote for them and vote in people you like. And that’s the way it ought to be.”

That's a no on $40 billion Ukraine aid package

In some respects, Missouri Republicans have been split on whether to support a $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package that passed through Congress recently. Blunt was a supporter, while U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., voted against it.

Asked if he would have backed that plan that President Joe Biden signed into law, McCloskey replied: “Hell no.” He said that Congress should focus on issues that are closer to home, such as honing in on the nation’s immigration policies.

He contended that Ukraine under President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a questionable record on human rights and press freedom. McCloskey also said that NATO is a relic against an “enemy that no longer exists” and adds that China is a more serious adversary to American interests.

“This is not a severe threat to our nation,” McCloskey said. “[Russia] would, however, be a good ally against China. It would be easily manipulatable to make the Russians our allies against China, rather than making Russia China’s ally against us.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum 

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Follow Mark McCloskey on Twitter: @mccloskeyusa 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.