Why wasn't gun control a topic in the AZ Senate debate?

AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

Sen. Mark Kelly and Blake Masters squared off on a debate stage for the only time this election season on Thursday night, but if you were hoping to hear the candidates sound off on the Second Amendment and gun control you were sorely disappointed. Immigration, election security, and abortion were all front and center, but there was nary a word about the right to keep and bear arms (or violent crime for that matter) from the moderator.

It’s an odd omission, and not just because the House of Representatives approved a ban on so-called assault weapons two months ago and Joe Biden signed what Democrats called the “first significant gun safety legislation in decades” into law just a few weeks before the gun ban vote took place. Mark Kelley is the co-founder of the gun control group Giffords, for crying out loud, while Blake Masters builds his own “ghost guns”. The contradiction between the two on an issue that’s of fundamental importance to many voters is strikingly clear, yet the moderator couldn’t ask a single question about anything involving firearms?

Here are a few non-gotcha questions that I came up with in just a couple of minutes:

  • The Mexican government says it will file a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona seeking to hold U.S. gun makers responsible for cartel violence. Do you support or oppose this lawsuit and why?
  • The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the Second Amendment protects a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense. Since then states like New York have tried to broadly ban the carrying of firearms in both public and private settings by declaring them to be “sensitive places.” Where do you think governments should be able to prohibit the lawful carrying of firearms?
  • The House of Representatives recently approved a ban on the sale and manufacture of “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines. Do you believe that ban goes too far, is enough, or is too weak because it does not prohibit the possession of those guns that are currently owned?
  • The ATF recently enacted new regulations aimed at staunching the flow of “ghost guns.” Do you believe it should be a federal crime to build and possess an unserialized firearm that is otherwise legal to own?

I’m sure you could come up with plenty more. Given the background of both Kelly and Masters, and the prominence of gun control and the Second Amendment in our news cycle, it’s completely inexplicable to me why this topic was utterly and completely ignored by the moderator.

To be sure, there were other issues that didn’t get covered (transgender issues and support for Ukraine among them), and the short length of time for the debate (less than an hour) certainly didn’t help. When you have three candidates on stage, an hour simply isn’t enough time to ask about all of the major issues of the day, much less receive substantive answers. And to be honest, most candidates prefer it this way. Less stage time, less of a chance to say something stupid that goes viral.

Still, gun policy/violent crime is a top concern of voters in many polls; certainly far higher than issues like water rights or the war in Ukraine. I’m sure that Mark Kelly is relieved he didn’t have to talk about his support for gun control while running for re-election in the Constitutional Carry state of Arizona. Whoever was in charge of picking the topics may have done Kelly a favor (though maybe it was completely unintentional), but they did the voters of that state a huge disservice by completely avoiding the the topic.