A mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 children and two elementary school teachers dead. Closer to home, candidates for Pennsylvania governor and the U.S. Senate will have a big say in shaping local and national firearm policy.
Currently, the veto pen of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has blocked looser gun laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, but Wolf’s term will come to an end this year. In the evenly divided U.S. Senate, an additional senator from Pennsylvania could swing gun policy in favor of either party.
Following the Uvalde shooting, NBC10 reached out to the current candidates for both offices to ask about their gun policy plans. NBC10 asked whether the candidates would support any ban on guns, a ban on assault-style rifles, universal background checks or legislation requiring a license to buy and carry firearms.
Here is how they responded:
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Democratic candidate for governor:
“Throughout my career, I have worked with my colleagues in law enforcement and with local communities across our Commonwealth to fight gun violence and keep Pennsylvanians safe, taking thousands of illegal guns off our streets, shutting down gun trafficking rings, and working to close the ghost gun loophole.” [Note: “ghost guns” generally refer to homemade guns that are often sold in kits and have no serial number, making them difficult to trace].
“Right now, every leader needs to say what they’re for — and how they're going to make our schools safe. As Governor, I will bring people together to get this done by putting a mental health counselor in every school, and giving every student access to telemental health; closing the ghost gun loophole; enacting universal background checks; and passing stronger red flag laws in Pennsylvania.” [Note: “red flag laws” generally refer to legislation that allows law enforcement to remove guns from people who may pose an immediate threat to themselves or others].
“I refuse to accept a reality where our children have to fear for their lives every time they go into the classroom. Every Pennsylvanian deserves to feel safe at home, at school, and in their community – and I know we can achieve that while upholding Pennsylvanians’ rights and traditions. As Governor, I will work every single day to protect our children and make our communities safe from gun violence.”
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Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican candidate for governor:
A representative for state Sen. Doug Mastriano did not respond to NBC10’s questions.
On his campaign website, Mastriano says he would make Pennsylvania a “Constitutional Carry State” and a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”
As a state senator, Mastriano has cosponsored legislation that would criminalize state and local officials for cooperating with any federal agencies in enforcing any new federal gun restrictions. Another bill he cosponsored would make it optional to get a gun license and would allow people to carry loaded guns without a permit; the bill contains exceptions for people who are “prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law or the laws of this commonwealth.”
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate:
"Gisele and I are devastated for the victims at Robb Elementary, and for the parents and families experiencing horrific pain. Enough is enough. It’s long past time for Congress to act. If I’m your next U.S. Senator, I would support common-sense reform like universal background checks for all gun sales and a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high capacity magazines."
Mehmet Oz, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate:
A representative for Senate candidate Mehmet Oz did not respond to NBC10’s questions.
In response to the Uvalde shooting, he Tweeted, “I’m sickened by the horrific act of evil in Uvalde, Texas. It is unimaginable pain that the parents and community are being faced with today. We need to ensure our kids are protected from these senseless acts of violence and feel safe in our schools.”
In a campaign video, Oz says people are “dead wrong” in saying he “won’t support guns.” He also calls himself “strong on the Second Amendment.” In the video, Oz shoots a handgun and a shotgun. He also loads what appears to be an assault-style rifle.
In the past, however, he has called for some gun restrictions.
The fact-checking website Politifact noted that Oz co-wrote several columns over the years in support of gun restrictions. In a 2014 column titled “Why gun violence is a public health issue,” they wrote that “until the government embraces gun-safety measures — polls show that 79% of the population favors universal background checks for gun buyers — it's every doctor's responsibility to their patients and your responsibility to yourself and your family to reduce gun violence."
A 2019 column titled “taking a shot at a better world,” meanwhile, argued that the country should reinstitute the 1994 ban on assault rifles.
Politifact noted that Oz has since distanced himself from the columns. While his co-author, Dr. Michael Roizen, said he believes he wrote all the columns that support gun control himself, Oz never expressed any objection to him about the columns.
At a town hall this year, Oz also spoke favorably about red flag laws.
Invoking his sister's own mental health issues -- he mentioned she has borderline personality disorder that posedsa danger to herself and others, and said therefore he does not want her to have a gun -- Oz said he supports systems in which a "local enforcement officer" can, "in a very expedited fashion," determine if someone is dangerous.
“Our reflex response is that people who have mental health issues should never have had a gun," Oz told an audience member at the town hall.
Dave McCormick, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate:
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Dave McCormick’s campaign did not respond to NBC10’s questions.
In response to the Uvalde shooting, McCormick tweeted, “Absolutely devastating and heartbreaking news in Texas. Our deepest prayers are with the children and families of this horrible tragedy.”
On his campaign website, McCormick calls himself a “strong believer in our Second Amendment rights” and vows to “stand up against the extreme left who want to abolish our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
In a May 7 tweet, he attacked Oz by saying his Republican opponent has called for gun restrictions “like an assault weapons ban & red flag laws!”
In a campaign video, McCormick fires various long guns, including an assault-style rifle. The video calls McCormick “pro-gun and proud of it.”