Guns suddenly an issue in Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary

Guns suddenly an issue in Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary
AP Photo/Marc Levy

On paper, there’s not a ton of difference between Rep. Conor Lamb and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman when it comes to gun control. Both men are part of the Democratic Party’s “I support the Second Amendment… but”-wing; in favor of bans on modern sporting rifles, “large capacity” magazines, and a host of other restrictions and never actually coming out in opposition to any gun control laws.

But there is one big difference between the two candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate this year: only Fetterman has ever held a shotgun on a black jogger who he thought was acting suspiciously. And now Lamb is making that a big issue in the primary.

In a Twitter thread posted on Thursday night, Lamb said that what Fetterman did was “wrong,” and that he has no explanation for what transpired in 2013, adding “We all know the Republicans will spend millions putting this video on every TV in Pennsylvania. That would lose us a lot of votes. It could single-handedly cost us a Senate seat.”

Fetterman has so far declined to respond on Twitter, but his campaign did have a reaction for reporters, calling Lamb’s attack “pathetic”, though they failed to point out that the man Fetterman held at gunpoint has gone on to endorse his Senate campaign.

Fetterman has defended his actions to reporters saying he pursued a man in 2013 and pulled a shotgun on him because he believed the man, who turned out to be an unarmed Black jogger, had been involved in a shooting. Fetterman was mayor of Braddock at the time and said he heard gunshots not far from his home, saw someone running in the area, called police and pursued the man himself to stop him from fleeing. An officer who responded to reports of gunfire searched the man, Christopher Miyares, and found he was unarmed, according to a 2013 police report.

Fetterman has long maintained he didn’t know the man’s race or point the gun directly at him. Miyares responded to questions by the Inquirer in April 2021, saying he didn’t believe Fetterman didn’t know his race and that Fetterman did point the gun at him. In the same letter, written from prison where Miyares was serving a sentence unrelated to the Fetterman incident, Miyares said one mistake shouldn’t stop Fetterman from having the chance to become a Senator and endorsed his campaign.

Polls in the race have shown Fetterman with a double-digit lead over Lamb, while on the Republican primary Dr. Mehmet Oz is still somehow in a tie for first place (albeit with 51% of voters still undecided) despite a growing scandal over his past support for gun control.

Is this an act of desperation on Lamb’s part? Yeah, probably so. Fetterman was elected to statewide office in 2018, five years after the incident with the shotgun, so voters have already had a chance to consider his actions. Of course, that was before the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in 2020, which Lamb was clearly trying to draw a comparison to in his tweets on Thursday evening.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, since I think both Lamb and Fetterman would be terrible for Pennsylvanians’ 2A rights if elected to the Senate, but I doubt this is going to do much to improve Lamb’s standing in the Democratic primary. I’m just hoping that Pennsylvania Republicans don’t end up nominating someone who agrees with both Lamb and Fetterman about the need for more gun control laws… which unfortunately is a distinct possibility at the moment.