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Government & Politics
Information and news from Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio and Montana Free Press to help you make an informed decision. Absentee ballots sent out: May 13Primary Election Day: June 7General Election Day: Nov. 8Help shape our elections coverage: Fill out this form with the questions you think we should be asking the candidates running for Congress.

Candidates for Montana's eastern congressional district weigh in on question of gun control

In an effort to curb gun violence, Seattle police are now following up in person on court orders requiring people to surrender guns.
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Following several mass shootings around the country in recent weeks, the topic of gun violence and gun control is at the forefront of political conversations.

In light of several mass shootings around the country in recent weeks, the topic of gun violence and gun control is at the forefront of political conversations, with President Joe Biden calling on Congress to pass stronger regulations. YPR contacted all candidates running for Montana’s 2nd Congressional District seat to get their comments on this issue by asking this question:

In light of the mass shooting in Texas last week and the renewed debate over how to regulate firearms in the U.S., how do you think Congress should address the gun violence crisis in the United States?

Below are candidates' responses, edited in some cases for strong language.

Republican candidates Rep. Matt Rosendale and Charles A. Walking Child and Libertarian candidates Roger Roots and Sam Rankin did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

Democrat Skylar Williams:

Congress is failing its duty to Protect the American people from Gun Violence. There are even Congressional members who have barred the CDC from Investigating gun deaths so we don't really have crystal clear statistics on the why, where, whens of this mess. I would advocate for allowing them to Investigate so we can get a better more educated understanding on how to prevent this from happening again.

Democrat Penny Ronning:

When danger or harm is proven to be present, the United States government, historically, has worked to implement protections for its people. We see this during the Nixon administration when members of Congress worked together to end toxic pollution in our air and water and again when members of Congress worked together to address childhood hunger and malnutrition. With these two examples alone, Congress and the White House created programs that have long benefited the health and well-being of generations of Americans.

More examples include how protections were put into place when the United States government addressed packaging of over-the-counter medication, bacteria in food, child labor, smoking in public, items that can be taken aboard an airplane, seat belts in cars, child car seats, the amount of alcohol a person can consume and legally drive a car, traffic laws, and so on. It is the responsibility of government to ensure reasonable laws are in place that protect its citizenry from harm.

Gun ownership is a part of our United States Constitution under the Second Amendment. However, gun violence is not. Gun ownership is normal throughout our country. Gun violence must never be. It is the responsibility of government to protect its people from the danger and harm of gun violence. In the same way harm to Americans has been addressed in the past, Congress and the White House can and needs to address gun violence in our country by working together to create reasonable laws that protect law abiding citizens. One way to start is for Congress to study and develop an understanding of the true nature of mass shootings. By understanding the nature of this type of gun violence, evidence-based solutions can be created and implemented.

Libertarian Samuel Thomas:

Congress needs to put up another assault weapons ban.

Republican James Boyette:

First, I would like to see Congress push legislation that would provide every teacher/ school staff member in the United States with a taser (or concealed carry pistol with advanced the necessary background check & training), ongoing training for how to neutralize threats and protect children. The taser or concealed carry pistol would be held in safes with quick access biometric locks, which would prevent any and all unwanted access (such as students), while providing the school staff/ teachers with the quick access to a resource that would be able to neutralize a threat/ active shooter and give students the opportunity to escape to safety.

Then, I believe that congress should be seeking to repeal all zero bail policies when it comes to violent offenders and seek policies that would ensure that violent criminals will be held to the punishment as stated by law. Granted, I do realize that not all people who have committed crimes recently have not had criminal records. However, this would be a huge factor on how we can reduce crime across the country. When it comes the recent mass shooters, there may not have been criminal records, but there were many red flags that could have and should have prevented these tragedies. The FBI and other agencies have studied language that had been used on social media, search results, etc., by people who have committed mass shootings and there have identified similar characteristics that have been repeatedly used by attackers. They have used this language on a variety of occasions to stop attacks from taking place. I believe that if we were to have a system in place that would bring attention to those who are engaging in threatening/ potentially violent behaviors, then we would be able to identify and prevent these attacks before they happen.

We need to also implement a reporting system where individuals can report behaviors that would make law enforcement aware of dangerous behaviors, threats of violence or any other behaviors/ language. Along with this, we need to ensure that our law enforcement has the manpower and resources to monitor and investigate these reports in a thorough and serious manner. We may not be able to stop evil from existing in society, but we may very well be able to use the actions & words of past evil to prevent future evil attacks.

Republican Kyle Austin

I don’t feel that congress should address anything regulation of firearms. Congress should hold parents of children and the people behind the gun violence accountable. Criminals don’t follow the law, that’s why they are criminals, more laws would only effect law abiding citizens and take away law abiding Americans constitutional rights. We need to focus on the mental health of our country and identifying mental health issues at early stages.

Do you support further restrictions on gun sales and/or ownership? If so, what specific restrictions do you support?

Democrat Skylar Williams:

I for one would advocate for more responsible gun ownership. There are people who 100% should never, ever own a firearm. People who research how to join a terrorist organization such as ISIS, KKK, Neo-Nazis or the Cartel can walk in and buy any gun they want and do God knows what with it, those are the people who shouldn't own a firearm. We also need to take a look at a country like Switzerland for example…near the same gun ownership as the United States and haven't had a Mass Shooting since 2001. We should absolutely mimic these policies that work and going forward and make them the National Standard.

Democrat Penny Ronning:

As answered in the first question, it is the job of government to protect its citizenry from harm. By studying the true nature of gun violence, Congress can implement reasonable action addressing gun violence in our country. Two areas that have been studied and where reasonable laws can be implemented to prevent harm and save lives are suicide prevention and domestic violence.

With information and studies available, lawmakers have the opportunity to prevent harm and save lives by passing legislation that requires background checks, temporarily removes firearms through Extreme Risk laws, and prevents domestic abusers from legally possessing firearms. Funding mental health care must also become as important to Congress as funding other forms of serious illness. Mental illness and substance abuse disorder must be addressed as the public health issues they are.

Libertarian Samuel Thomas:

I support common sense gun laws that enforce a waiting period and criminal background check.

I am a gun owner and all for responsible gun ownership.

Republican James Boyette:

In regard to gun restrictions, I believe that law abiding citizens should never have their rights infringed upon. We should protect and preserve 2nd amendment rights, period. There is so much talk about how there is a gun problem and an assault weapon problem across America, but that is just false. We have a VIOLENCE problem across America. It does not matter if a criminal has a baseball bat, a knife, a gun or a car, if they want to hurt another person then they will. By definition, every single one of the aforementioned items would then become an "assault weapon"; assault bat, assault knife, assault car, etc.

When people begin to fall into this political agenda of calling semi-automatic weapons "assault rifles", they are sadly mistaken, especially when they refer to the AR-15. The AR-15, surprisingly does NOT stand for "Assault Rifle", it does however stand for "ArmaLite" the original company and manufacturer of the rifle. The AR-15 will shoot a bullet the same exact way as a 9mm handgun, a 30-06 rifle and any other firearm, the only difference is the bullet size.

If we want to find answers on how we address the "gun restrictions" it would be simple. 1) Any person who is convicted of a violent crime, should not be be allowed to own a firearm. 2) If an individual is denied a firearm purchase, but has not been convicted of a violent crime, they should be permitted the opportunity to go through a specialized gun training/ safety course and an enhanced background check to regain their right. 3) Increased access to gun safety courses, marksmanship classes and other firearm safety & training courses available to increase the knowledge, safety & handling by gun owners. 4) Include firearm safety training courses into school curriculum to raise awareness on the proper handling, storage and use of firearms to reduce accidents & improve safety.