CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - After the nation’s latest mass shootings, the two top candidates in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District disagreed on the need for tougher background checks for gun buyers — and whether President Trump shares responsibility for fueling divisions.
But neither Democrat Dan McCready nor Republican Dan Bishop would ban the kind of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines used in the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“The fact is that the gun violence is new, the prevalence of guns in America is not,” Bishop told the Observer Monday. “Which means its not the guns that caused it. It is societal ills . . . and the problem must be approached comprehensively.”
Along with two third-party candidates, Bishop and McCready are running in the special Sept. 10 election to fill the seat that’s been vacant since January. They reacted to the weekend shootings that took the lives of at least 31 people.
Trump addressed the shootings Monday, condemning “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” while calling for better mental health laws and “red flag” measures that warn if someone is too mentally ill to purchase a gun.
“Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said.
Some Democrats — including Rep. Alma Adams of Charlotte — have called for a ban or moratorium on the sales of assault-style weapons. McCready does not.
“I think the best way to deal with assault weapons is to implement comprehensive background checks,” he said Monday.
One in five gun buyers avoids a background check, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. McCready favors ending exceptions such as the “gun show loophole” that allows buyers to purchase weapons from a private seller without a background check.
Bishop, who was recently endorsed by the National Rifle Association, wouldn’t go that far.
“I’ve not heard of any proposal around that subject that has any explicable purpose other than leading to the creation of a national gun registry, which is anathema,” he said.
McCready said Trump’s tweets and rhetoric have fueled the acrimony in the country. The president’s recent comments about four Democratic congresswomen helped trigger the Charlotte City Council’s resolution last month to “strongly condemn” his “racist and xenophobic comments.”
“It clearly does,” contribute to divisiveness, McCready said.
Bishop said he doesn’t believe “the president deserves any particular blame for coarsening the debate or precipitating gun violence.” He points to comments like those of New York Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez likening border facilities to “concentration camps.”
He said the president’s language is no better or worse than that of his critics.
Bishop launched a new TV ad Monday describing McCready and congressional Democrats as “crazy liberal clowns.” It was a theme he turned to in responding to tweets about the shootings by some of those same Democrats.
When Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan tweeted that Trump incites violence with his own tweets, Bishop retweeted it, saying, “Crazy clown show continues.” When Ocasio-Cortez responded to Trump’s address by tweeting that white supremacy, not video games, caused mass shootings, he tweeted, “More crazy clowns. CRAAAZYYY.”
Adams, who just returned to Charlotte from a trip to the border near El Paso, said she wants a moratorium on the sale of assault-style weapons.
“Why do we need assault weapons on the street anyway?” she said. “Those are weapons of war.”
Adams said it’s time for Congress to do something.
“We can’t continue to just sit around and say, ‘We’re going to pray about it,’” she said. “The Lord expects us to do something.”
Meanwhile, in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, spokesman Daniel Keylin said Sen. Thom Tillis believes “we need to strike the right balance between keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and not infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”
In a statement, Democrat Cal Cunningham said, “Condolences are not enough.”
“This is a moral moment and we need leaders who will act,” he said. “I believe we can protect our communities by passing legislation like expanding background checks and banning the sale of high-capacity magazines.”
Republican candidate Garland Tucker could not be reached. In a Facebook post, GOP candidate Sandy Smith urged Americans to reject hatred, find God and exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.
“Arm yourselves and learn to protect yourself,” she wrote. “But use this right given to us by God — the right to self-defense — for good.”