Dem candidates call for gun bans and more in first PA Senate debate

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Three of the Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania met on a debate stage for the first time on Thursday night, and while there were some slight differences in how each of them approached the issue of “gun violence,” they’re pretty much on the same page when it comes to gun control: they like it, they love it, they want a lot more of it.

While Thursday’s debate was the first time that Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta squared off in a debate, the three also took part in a forum sponsored by the gun control group Giffords a few days ago, and all of them endorsed the top priorities for the gun control lobby; universal background checks, bans on “large capacity” magazines, and criminalizing the ownership of modern sporting rifles.

Thursday night, however, only Fetterman made new gun control laws the focus of his response.

The candidates were asked to address the ongoing spate of gun violence in the commonwealth and expound on their proposals to address gun violence at the federal level.

Fetterman said he would vote to eliminate the Senate filibuster, which he said, would be the only way to pass comprehensive, common sense legislation, including banning assault weapons.

Lamb said he would focus on prevention, and would support shifting law enforcement dollars away from non-violent drug crimes to more aggressive gun crimes. He said the U.S. is too weak on prosecuting firearms trafficking.

Kenyatta said he would focus on creating communities with good jobs and health care for all to address safety.

If I actually believed what Lamb and Kenyatta said, I’d be somewhat impressed by their response. But given the fact that the pair have previously (and recently) talked up their desire for more gun control laws, I think their responses on Thursday night had more to do with how their trying to brand their campaign than what they’d do if they’re elected to the Senate.

Fetterman, on the other hand, was at least willing to put his desire to ban the most commonly-sold rifle in the country front and center in his response. His political posturing came when he said that he would vote to nuke the filibuster in the Senate in order to ram gun control bills through with just 51 votes in favor. I have no doubt that Fetterman would indeed do that if given the opportunitybut the most likely outcome in November is a Republican takeover of the House (and perhaps the Senate as well), which would make the Senate filibuster a moot point.

Fetterman and his fellow Democrats can’t acknowledge that reality, at least from the debate stage. In fact, all three once again veered sharply away from the views held by most Americans when they were asked to weigh in on how Sleepy Joe is doing down in Washington, D.C. Kenyatta gave Joe Biden an “A-“, while Fetterman and Lamb scored his administration a “B+”.

What do Pennsylvanians think about Biden’s performance? As my friend and colleague Ed Morrisey of Hot Air noted on Thursday, the Keystone State is one of several Senate battlegrounds where Biden’s approval rating is so far underwater it needs scuba gear.

 The latest Civiqs poll, which breaks out approval ratings by states, shows just how bad it looks for Democrats in the states up for Senate elections this cycle. We’ll leave out the easy-GOP states like Alabama and focus on the highlights:

  • Alaska: 32/62
  • Arizona: 34/58
  • Colorado: 39/51
  • Florida: 37/55
  • Georgia: 33/56
  • Iowa: 32/58
  • Missouri: 29/63
  • Nevada: 32/60
  • New Hampshire: 41/51
  • North Carolina: 35/56
  • Ohio: 31/60
  • Pennsylvania: 36/55
  • Wisconsin: 38/55

Biden can’t even get to 40% in these states, with the single exception of New Hampshire. In fact, he’s only got a favorable job approval in four states at the moment, and only two of those with majorities: Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont. If Biden’s approval ratings were relatively close, then it might not matter as much, but his deep unpopularity combined with Democrats’ hard lurch to the Left will likely dismay independents enough to turn out to force a correction — and Democratic incumbents and open-seat candidates will pay the price for it.

That’s a brutal number for Pennsylvania Democrats, and while Republicans in the state have their own primary issues, Fetterman’s far-left positioning on Second Amendment issues and embrace of Joe Biden isn’t going to do him any favors among the electorate if he wins the Democratic primary (current polls show him with a pretty commanding lead over Lamb and Kenyatta). I just hope at the end of the primary season Pennsylvania gun owners end up with a clear choice in candidates, and not a Democrat running on gun control and a Republican running from his past support for more gun laws aimed at law-abiding Americans.