As amazing as it seems in this age of 24-hour-a-day punditry, there are still issues about which it is permissible not to have an opinion.

For instance, I won’t be drawn into the debate over the relative merits of locally grown, organic broccoli versus the chemicalized version produced at factory farms. That’s because I refuse both to eat broccoli and to engage in pointless arguments about the alleged superiority of each camp’s noxious weeds.

I’m not taking sides on the question of what soccer team is the best in the world, for the simple reason that if I were forced to choose between watching soccer and a home shopping channel, I’d pick the latter. I’d also be hard-pressed to name even two soccer clubs (Man U may be one, although I have an uneasy feeling that could be a gay porn Web site).

Team Edward? Team Jacob? If you’ve taken a stand on this one and you’re not a hormonally hyped teenage girl, you need immediate psychiatric help.

There are, however, issues on which nearly everyone has an opinion: abortion, same-sex marriage, the “Family Circus” comic. These positions may be straightforward (Bil Keane should be imprisoned where he can never get near another drawing board) or nuanced (Bil Keane should be allowed to continue producing “Family Circus” only if he agrees to be soundly thrashed by the members of Man U, regardless of whether it’s a soccer team or a gay porn site).

There’s another topic about which normal people have little difficulty deciding where they stand: gun control. Notice I said “normal people,” a phrase I chose after careful consideration. That’s because there exists a class of human beings that has a lot of trouble picking sides on this one. I suppose it would be impolite, not to mention politically incorrect, to refer to these folks as “abnormal people.” So I’ll use a slightly less pejorative term:

Gubernatorial candidates.

Two leading contenders for governor have staked out positions on gun control that, when translated into English, amount to this:

They believe whatever you want them to believe.

Democrat Steve Rowe and Republican Bruce Poliquin have dithered around to the point where their stands might be considered acceptable to fanatics who support compulsory gun ownership for every red-blooded American over the age of 4, as well as to those nuts who want a ban on all firearms, as well as slingshots, peashooters and ping-pong paddles. And everybody in between.

In January, the candidates appeared at a forum sponsored by the Associated General Contractors of Maine. During a “lightning round,” in which answers were limited to yes or no, they were asked this question: “Have you ever viewed gay porn on a Web site called Man U?”

Sorry, wrong question.

The actual query was, “Do you support mandatory background checks on the purchase of a firearm?”

Rowe said “No,” but later said something else. Sorta.

Poliquin said “Yes,” but then revised that to … well, it’s hard to tell.

After Rowe was taken to task by Rosa Scarcelli, another Democratic candidate for governor, for endorsing a gun-control position that she claimed labeled him as soft on domestic violence, he responded thusly:

“The question asked at the AGC forum had some faulty premises: It failed to note that federal law already requires criminal background checks for the sale of firearms by federally licensed firearm dealers. I support that law. This law does not apply to many sales at gun shows; I support closing this so-called ‘gun show loophole,’ as well as similar loopholes that currently allow kids and criminals to buy guns.”

So why didn’t he answer the question with a yes?

Because, he said, he didn’t want to stop a father from “giving a hunting rifle to his son.” He later told Maine Public Radio, “I believe there ought to be exceptions.” What exceptions? “I support closing the gun show loophole … but I don’t support a complete, universal law.”

Glad he cleared that up.

As for Poliquin, he quickly clarified his position, which had generated criticism from conservative members of the GOP, particularly after it was revealed he’d once donated to a national gun-control group. In a statement sent to Matthew Gagnon at the Pine Tree Politics Web site, Poliquin said, “It’s natural to target someone who’s out in front. They’ll take words out of context, push conspiracy theories, and try to mislead others about your positions.”

I see. He has the same opinion as Steve Rowe:


A spokesman for Poliquin’s campaign later sent me an e-mail indicating his candidate opposed closing the gun show loophole. So, why did he say “Yes” at the forum? Because, “Bruce supports current law.”

Some cynical observers (not me, other cynical observers) have suggested Rowe and Poliquin are trying to have it both ways on gun control. That might be the best explanation, since the alternatives are that they’re stupid or inept.

It’s time they took a real stand. Come on, guys, man up.

Wait. Is that like Man U?

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