In their own words: What Pa. and N.J. candidates say about gun issues
What the candidates have said about guns in debates, our endorsement meetings, or public speeches.
In addition to sparking a national conversation about political rhetoric as a motivator for violence, anti-Semitism, and hate, the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last Saturday renewed debate about gun policy.
On Tuesday, one of the many issues that should guide voters in casting their ballots is where the candidates stand on gun control. To help, we compiled quotes from local candidates — from debates, endorsement meetings, and public statements or interviews — that reflect their position on gun laws. (Editor's note: Since there are multiple gun laws and policies being debated, these aren't meant to offer candidates' definitive views on guns, but a general sense of where they stand on particular issues.)
Scott Wagner (R): "We have background checks in Pennsylvania, and as governor I would want to know that every i is being dotted and every t is being crossed. … What I want to know are the current regulations and checks that are currently in place being done as according to protocol." Source
Tom Wolf (D): "We should pass legislation that closes the loophole that allows people to purchase long rifles, including assault-style weapons without passing a background check, and we should pass legislation that requires all those who wish to purchase a firearm to go through a state police background check." Source
Lou Barletta (R): "I don't think that we should have any automatic weapons on the streets here in America. … I don't think we should have bump stocks. But at the same time I believe that we are a country of the Second Amendment and we should not punish law-abiding Americans. … How do you define an assault weapon that [an assault-weapon ban] doesn't infringe on the right of law-abiding Americans?" Source
Bob Casey (D): "I had to make a decision initially on three votes: the background-check bill that you talked about, the limitation on the magazine so that one individual can't shoot hundreds of bullets at one time — especially at schoolchildren, and third, the ban on the military-style weapon. I voted yes on all three of those. They are commonsense measures totally consistent with the Second Amendment ." Source
First Congressional District
Brian Fitzpatrick (R): "We [the Problem Solvers Caucus of which Fitzpatrick is a member] have a gun-safety package in place: universal background checks … , assault-weapons ban, gun violent restraining order, all those things that we … everything that we need to do to enhance gun safety. " Source
Scott Wallace (D): "We have to ban assault weapons, we have to ban high-capacity magazines, we have to ban bump stocks, silencers, we have to remove the ridiculous legal liability, immunity, that Congress granted to the gun industry in 2005 at the request of the NRA. And I would require biometric trigger locks on every gun in America." Source
Fourth Congressional District
Dean David (R): "We agree on something like bump stocks, that banning something that takes a semiautomatic weapon and makes it essentially automatic makes sense/ … If we're all agreeing that there's got to be better communication between mental health and law enforcement, let's pass that bill. If we're all agreeing that high-capacity magazines are something that we can compromise on, let's do that. But let's not pack 50 things in a bill and say 'Well, I tried,' because you know what? You didn't try."
Madeleine Dean (D): "We, in the [state] House, passed legislation that the Senate passed it too and then sent to the governor for signing that would require mandatory relinquishment of weapons from a person subject to a final order of protection from abuse. … That's actually going to save lives, so I'm very proud of Pennsylvania for having done that. And that's only one small step. I ordered the bump-stock ban after Las Vegas." Source
Fifth Congressional District
Pearl Kim (R): "I respect the Second Amendment, but I do support the red-flag legislation that has been proposed across the state of Pennsylvania. That is, you can petition the courts if you … believe that a person could be an immediate threat to themselves and/or others. I think that is an effective piece of legislation." Source
Mary Gay Scanlon (D): "I am not saying let's take away everyone's guns. I am saying that there is room for common sense. … We need to reauthorize the assault-weapons ban, we need to ban high-capacity magazines, but we also need to address the steady violence that grips cities like Chester and Philly. And we need to have commonsense public health-type solutions there. We need research, which the federal government has banned." Source
Sixth Congressional District
Greg McCauley (R): "The vast majority of the shooters have had serious mental health issues. I mean, think about what they're doing. That's where our health-care system can start to work, right in mental health. … We need to get together and protect our children, more than our money. I'm going to get involved in it. I don't know that this is just a federal issue. Shouldn't the states already be on this? Shouldn't our police have what they need to protect our children? And shouldn't we have universal background checks to check their mental health?" Source
Chrissy Houlahan (D): "Guns of war do not belong in civilian hands. Full stop. We need to make sure that we do some commonsense things to make our communities and our schools safer, and that doesn't include arming our teachers. … We need to make sure that we are reinstating the assault-weapons ban. We need to make sure that we are limiting magazine capacity. We need to make sure that we are funding mental health." Source
Bob Hugin (R): "I think there's the right balance to ensure that we're protected. I don't think that people who are suffering from mental illness should have access to any kind of a weapon, and we should protect them and ourselves in lots of ways. So, I think there's things we can do in terms of background checks to make sure that we have more safety without violating the right of people to own weapons." Source
Bob Menendez (D): "I am a cosponsor of restoring the assault-weapons ban. … I am a sponsor of outlawing high-capacity magazines. … I have always been a supporter of and most recently a cosponsor of universal background checks. For me that means, whether on a click of a mouse on a computer, going to a gun show, or buying it from an arms dealer, you should go through a vigorous background check to make sure that you don't have a criminal record, that you are not a domestic abuser, and that you don't have a record of mental illness, and that you are not on the terrorist watch list." From endorsement meeting
Second Congressional District
Seth Grossman (R): "When it comes to gun control we have a paradox. It seems that most of the gun deaths or mass shootings seem to occur in gun-free zones. So I think we've got to move away from the idea that fewer legal guns means less violence and less killings. … I cannot picture how another federal law would make anyone safer."
Jeff Van Drew (D): "I absolutely support universal background checks. … In fact, I believe that we should have a better, more thorough, better-run universal background-checks system. … I also believe that universal background checks should be truly universal. Nationally, whenever there is a transfer of guns, there is no reason that somebody should have a gun without a quick [check], and they made it quick now, you can really get a federal universal background check very quickly, gun shows, and so forth. I think that that's a good thing to do."
Third Congressional District
Tom MacArthur (R): "I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. I've been a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. But at the same time, I'm a father, I'm a grandfather. I don't know anyone that wants people running around with guns that are a danger to themselves and others. I have advocated for universal background checks. … I have advocated for and supported increased funding, grants for school to harden the environment. … I don't believe in arming teachers."
Andy Kim (D): "I think it is ridiculous that we haven't been able to get into place the universal background checks, the closing the gun-show loophole, the private online sales. These are all steps that should have been done a long, long time ago, and the fact that we haven't even been able to do that after the Las Vegas massacre and the Parkland shooting is disgusting to me. "