It’s not often that the co-founder of a major gun control organization actually engages in a debate, but Giffords co-founder Mark Kelly did just that on Tuesday night, squaring off with Arizona Senator Martha McSally in the sole televised debate between the two senatorial candidates before Election Day.
Unfortunately for Second Amendment supporters and Republicans in Arizona, McSally left a lot on the table when challenging Kelly over his views on gun control, and on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we breakdown the missed opportunities and unasked questions that could have brought home to voters the threat posed by Kelly’s anti-gun agenda.
McSally presented herself as a “Second Amendment Senator”, which is great, but Mark Kelly portrayed himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment as well, and McSally failed to tell voters exactly what his so-called support really looks like.
McSally said the background check system for guns doesn’t work as it should. She also pointed to her support of the Fix NICS Act, which was a federal law in 2017 that applies penalties to government agencies for not reporting criminal to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
“We’ve had shootings where people should’ve been in the system, but instead they passed a background check” McSally said.
Meanwhile, Kelly said there are common sense gun laws that can allow Americans to keep their rights but also ensure guns don’t wind up in the wrong hands.
“These are common sense things that most Arizonans support,” Kelly said…
“I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment, I’m a gun owner,” Kelly said. “Our rights and traditions are so important. The Second Amendment is so important, but we can never let a bunch of kids in the classroom get killed and think there’s nothing we can do about it.”
I don’t know anyone, gun owner or not, who thinks that nothing can be done to keep kids safe at school. In fact, McSally herself talked about increasing funding for school safety. The difference between Mark Kelly and Martha McSally is that Mark Kelly believes that the way to increased safety lies with cracking down on legal gun owners in the hopes of stopping a criminal, while McSally supports increasing security for kids at school.
As the co-founder of the gun control group that bears his wife’s name, Mark Kelly has a record in support of all kinds of ridiculous gun control laws, but McSally used his ties to the Giffords gun control organization as a way to attach him to far-Left Democrats like Ilhan Omar rather than delving into the policies that Giffords has been advocating for.
McSally sought to cast Kelly as operating an organization that supported liberal Democrats such as Omar, which generated blowback from Kelly.
“The organization that Sen. McSally is referring to is named after my wife, Gabby, (former Rep.) Gabby Giffords, it’s named Giffords. Gabby was injured, shot in the head, in 2011. The issue of gun violence is personal for Gabby and me,” Kelly said.
Most voters in Arizona don’t care about the congresswoman from Minnesota, and I suspect that trying to tie Kelly to Omar likely fell flat as an attack on the Democratic candidate. A much more effective approach would have been to acknowledge the personal stakes for Mark Kelly in pushing gun control, while pointing out that Kelly’s gun control group is out of step with most Arizonans. For instance, earlier this year Giffords gave California’s gun control laws an “A” rating, while giving Arizona a big fat “F”.
McSally could have followed up with something like, “Mark Kelly may love California’s gun control laws, but we here in Arizona feel differently. In fact, many of you probably know someone who left California and moved here because of how screwy their laws are. If Mark Kelly wants to live in a place with 10-day waiting periods on gun purchases, criminalizes the possession of semi-automatic rifles and 20-round magazines, and has a concealed carry process that allows local sheriffs to deprive almost everyone except for campaign donors of their right to bear arms, he should move there instead of trying to impose California’s gun control laws on every gun owner in Arizona and the rest of America.”
Unfortunately, McSally didn’t spell out for Arizona gun owners just what’s at stake with the election, nor did she deliver specifics about Kelly’s backing of draconian gun control proposals that would turn the right to keep and bear arms from a right of the people into a privilege for a chosen few. I wish she’d been more effective in pushing back on Kelly’s anti-gun agenda, but unfortunately she failed to deliver a knockout blow against her opponent.
Cam Edwards has covered the 2nd Amendment for more than 15 years as a broadcast and online journalist, as well as the co-author of "Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Start a Family, and Other Manly Advice" with Jim Geraghty. He lives outside of Farmville, Virginia with his family.