Rifles on sale at the Nation's Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia during July 2023
Rifles on sale at the Nation's Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia during July 2023 / Stephen Gutowski

Republicans Mum on Guns at First Primary Debate

Gun policy was noticeably absent from the opening contest between Republican presidential candidates.

On Wednesday night, the issue was not brought up independently by any candidates. And almost nobody addressed gun policy directly in any of their answers. Fox News host Bret Baier tried to broach the subject by asking the candidates what they would do about guns and gun violence.

“This weekend here in Milwaukee, reports say there were 30 shootings, and a number of them including kids. Add that to the big increase in school shootings around the country,” Baier said while setting up a question to former New Jersey Governor Chirs Christie. “Democrats blame this crisis on easy access to guns. They also blame Republicans for blocking gun control legislation.”

Christie said he would instruct federal prosecutors to take over the prosecution of violent crime in cities.

“We have plenty of room in the federal prisons to lock up these violent criminals and clean up what’s going on all across this country in these individual cities,” he said.

In the only moment where gun policy was mentioned throughout the night, he then pivoted to criticizing the ongoing prosecution of President Joe Biden’s son for gun possession charges. He accused the elder Biden of hypocrisy and vowed to lock up his son if elected. However, he also inaccurately characterized the potential maximum sentence for the crime Hunter Biden has been accused of as a mandatory minimum.

“When Hunter Biden fills out a fake application, a false application for a gun permit, and then is facing a ten-year mandatory minimum, which was mandated by legislation sponsored by his father, and then you have a Justice Department that walks away from those charges we’re telling people the law doesn’t apply to everybody,” Christie said. “In a Christie Administration, he would go to jail for ten years.”

When asked by Baier what he would do about guns, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy didn’t mention gun policy and instead said he would deploy more police and bring back mental institutions to address crime.

“The problem in our country right now, the reason we have that mental health epidemic, is that people are so hungry for purpose and meaning,” he said. “At a time when family, faith, patriotism, and hard work have all disappeared, what we really need is a tonal reset from the top saying this is what it means to be American.”

The responses about guns and crime were sidetracked somewhat when former Vice President Mike Pence and Ramaswamy got into a debate over whether America was in an identity crisis. Pence argued the country isn’t “looking for a new national identity” because “the American people are the most faith-filled, freedom-loving, idealistic people the world has ever known,” while Ramaswamy countered that “we live in a dark moment” and “we’re in an internal sort of cold cultural civil war.” When Baier pivoted back to the question at hand, he dropped the gun policy aspect and asked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who instituted pro-gun reforms in his state during the lead-up to his campaign, only about crime generally.

He responded by saying “hollowed out cities” are the result of “George Soros funding these radical left-wing district attorneys” who “get into office and say they aren’t going to prosecute crimes they don’t agree with.” He pointed to his removal of two district attorneys as an example of how he would address crime if elected. But he didn’t reference any of the gun policies he instituted while governor.

North Dakota Governor Doug Bergum argued crime should be addressed by turning to “small-town values.” Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson finished out the segment by saying primary frontrunner and former President Donald Trump has undermined the justice system by attacking law enforcement officials and concluded, “we have to have respect for our justice system and our rule of law, and it starts at the top.”

Trump, who skipped the debate and sat down for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, didn’t address gun policy in the 46-minute conversation that was posted to Twitter during the debate.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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