U.S. NewsMilitary


Veteran Candidates Look To Shore Up Voters On Gun Issues

With about a month to go until midterms, veterans running for Congress are tapping into gun reform issues in hopes of connecting with voters.
Posted at 5:03 PM, Oct 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-04 17:03:23-04

Camille Parkinson and Taylor Turner can't vote this November. 

At 17 years old, they've already been impacted by gun violence. Camille lost a friend to road rage incident, and Taylor's friend Helena Ramsey was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Feeling the impacts firsthand, the girls felt the need to involved.

"It pushed me to get out because she can't just die and the other kids can't just die and nothing be done about it," Camille said.

Chrissy Houlahan is a Democrat running for Congress in a district held by a Republican since 2003.

She's a veteran and former teacher, and she says these experiences have shaped her views on guns.

"I felt a unique sense of empathy with my students. We all had to walk through the gun detectors every single day," Houlahan said. "We had to worry about our safety, our personal safety, every single day, not just in the classroom but on the streets as well."

She does not support teachers having guns in the classroom. 

"It honestly couldn't be a worse idea for a lot of different reasons," Houlahan added. "The idea that I would be able to safely manage that weapon, I think, is impossible. In my classroom, within a year I had my cellphone taken a couple of times."

Houlahan is in favor of closing closing the gun show loophole, restrictions on firing high capacity magazines, universal background checks and renewing the federal assault weapons ban.

"For me having come from a military heritage, I believe the Second Amendment is there to protect and defend. I believe in good and responsible gun ownership," Houlahan said. "I also believe that those kinds of weapons, assault weapons, belong in the hands of people who are trained for them and don't belong in civilian hands.

It's a political risk in a district that's been red for fifteen years, but Houlahan believes on this issue, Pennsylvanians will get on board. So do Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly. They've come to Pennsylvania's 6th District to support Houlahan. Though a win for Democrats in Congress could help them pass a gun reform bill, the question remains whether the president would sign it. Kelly seems to think he might.

"After the Parkland shooting, the thing he said is similar to what I would have said," Kelly explained. "The gun lobby winds up in the Oval [Office] on Wednesday, and he's a different guy on Thursday. If the legislation was passed, I think we could get him to sign something."

Greg Pruett is a veteran, too. He served in the military for 13 years, including a tour in Iraq. He now runs the Second Amendment Alliance in Idaho. Pruett says the best way to stop a shooter is to eliminate gun-zones, particularly in schools. 

"It blows my mind that if a teacher wants to carry guns that they don't let them, if all they want to do is protect their kids," Pruett said. 

Pruett says Houlahan's idea that her weapon might be stolen is just not plausible. He also says her idea of banning assault weapons won't prevent future shootings.

"Banning those weapons just isn't going to accomplish anything, especially when we have literally 20 million AR-15s and AK-47s," Pruett added. "They'll be in existence forever. You're not going to dry that up. It does confuse me how veterans who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution — and the Second Amendment obviously is part of that — that they're OK with the government infringing on all these things."

Both Houlahan and Pruett see their side as the best means of protection in preventing mass casualties in a shooting. Voters will decide in just a few weeks which school of thought makes the most sense for their community.