DEBATE HIGHLIGHT: Democratic State Rep Candidates Grapple With Gun Control

WILMINGTON, MA —  The five Democratic candidates vying for the 19th Middlesex State Rep seat previously held by Rep. Jim Miceli tackled the issue of gun control at their debate last week hosted by Wilmington Community Television and moderated by Katie Lannan of State House News.

Wilmington resident Daryn Marsh asked the following video question: “Massachusetts already has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. If you were our new State Rep, would you fight to make it even tougher for law-abiding citizens to obtain legal firearms, or would you make it a little easier?”

“I would not put any more restrictions on guns,” answered Tewksbury Selectman Mark Kratman (D-Tewksbury). “I think law-abiding citizens should be able to have guns… The problem seems to be that whenever we have a mass murder, some of the weapons are semi-automatics or guns with bump [stocks], those should definitely be looked at. But for a typical resident just to have a gun to defend themselves, or go hunting, or do whatever they want to do for recreation, I would not [support] any restrictions on removing their gun rights.”

“I’m very proud to live in Massachusetts with some of the toughest gun laws in the country,” responded Wilmington Democratic Town Committee Chair Erika Johnson (D-Wilmington). “While I respect the Second Amendment, a lot has changed since that was written. We have so many new technologies coming out. We’re living in dangerous times. I think it’s really important to expand universal background checks and implement a waiting period.”

“I think the fact that I have a membership at a Rod and Gun Club pretty much tells [the questioner] how I stand on our 2nd Amendment rights. They’re enshrined in the Constitution,” said former Miceli Chief of Staff Dave Robertson (D-Tewksbury). “Yes, things have changed over the years, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a fundamental right… I’m the only candidate, from all parties, that has any experience with testifying along side the Gun Owners Action League, which is essentially the NRA Chapter of Massachusetts, relative to [Rep. Miceli’s efforts] to standardize the state’s gun laws.”

“I do support the 2nd Amendment. I do believe people should have the right to bare arms. I think it’s imperative that it’s done responsibly,” answered former Wilmington Selectwoman and School Committee member Judy O’Connell (D-Wilmington). “I don’t believe I’d be doing anything to change that. Massachusetts is one of the most regulated states. I do believe in the process that’s in place for a criminal background check and to make sure these guns being put in people’s hands for personal safety and/or recreation go through a strict process. It’s also imperative that we have education at the grade level so people understand that owning a gun should be done so responsibly… While not part of this direct question, I also feel we need to do more in the field of mental illness and really get a handle as a community, a state and a country on what we can do more to support people who are afflicted with drug addiction as well as other mental illnesses that might permeate into this question.”

“I do support the 2nd Amendment with some common sense restrictions,” responded longtime Wilmington Selectman Mike McCoy (D-Wilmington). “A lot has changed since the 1700s. Society is completely different. The biggest disease in this country… is mental illness…. After 9/11, we seemed to have taken care of the problems at the airports. It makes no sense why we can’t address [the issue of school shootings]. Our kids are dying out there. We need to take every precaution. Why can’t we take care of our kids and these schools? It makes no sense.”

As pointed out by the questioner on social media a few days after the debate, the NRA has graded the candidates in the race and has given a “D” grade to Robertson and a “F” grade to McCoy and Johnson. Judy O’Connell and Mark Kratman did not receive a grade, presumably for not filling out the questionnaire. Republican candidate Pina Prinzivalli (R-Tewksbury) received the only “A” among active candidates.

Watch the debate, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below. Jump to the 47:27 mark to watch much of what was written above.

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