Editor’s note: During the summer and fall, leading up to Election Day in November, we will bring you a series of stories in which we ask candidates to weigh-in on issues they will have an opportunity to affect if elected to office. At various times, interviews will be conducted in-person, via phone and email. In instances when candidates answer questions by email, their responses are printed verbatim.
Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in S.C. District 5, incumbent Mick Mulvaney (R-Indian Land) and Democrat Tom Adams, a Fort Mill Town Councilman, were emailed questions shortly after a May 23 shooting in Isla Vista, Calif., and another June 10 at a high school in Oregon:
Q Do you think more effective gun control laws could have prevented those shootings? Why or why not?
A Mulvaney: Both of the shooters in the two incidents were clearly very sick people. While laws are a critical part of our culture and our society, I think it is unreasonable to think that laws will protect us against mentally ill people 100% of the time. I haven’t followed the Oregon story as closely, but I think the California incident shows that crazy people do crazy things, whether it be with knives, guns, or whatever they can get their hands on. I doubt different laws would have produced a different outcome.
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A Adams: I’m not sure we can ever totally prevent tragedies like we’ve seen happening again and again, but we need to try. Clearly, if our response is to do nothing, nothing will change.
Q Should Congress, and more specifically the House, come up with legislation directed at curbing gun violence? If so, what should that be? If not, what should Congress do, if anything, to help protect the public from these types of incidents?
A Mulvaney: Without increasing overall spending, the House just reallocated some monies to further fund the national background check system which has already been in place for years. This was done through a bipartisan amendment which I supported. I’m hopeful the Senate takes this bill up soon.
A Adams: We we need to make more gun purchases subject to background checks. We need to prohibit gun purchases by people who have misdemeanor convictions for violent offenses. Currently, only felons or people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors are prohibited. The background check process needs to be improved. Universal checks, including purchases at gun shows and from private sellers would be a good place for reform and most Americans support universal checks. We also need to better enforce gun laws that are on the books already.
Q Do you feel mental health care in this country is adequate? If not, what can be done about it?
A Mulvaney: The one common element in the shootings of the past years is not the type of the gun or the size of the magazine…it is the mental condition of the shooter. I would hope that the one thing that most of us would agree on regarding gun rights is that we should try to keep guns out of the hands of those who are dangerously mentally ill. Dealing with the mentally ill is one of the places where prioritizing government spending is smart.
A Adams: I think it’s obvious that it’s not, but studies show that 95% of gun violence in this country is committed by people without mental illness. It’s very easy to scapegoat mental illness as a cause of gun violence. In reality, a very small portion of people with mental illness are violent, and a small portion of gun violence is committed by the mentally ill. New insurance plans introduced by the Affordable Care Act require mental health coverage, which makes treatment an option for many who would not otherwise seek it.
Q Are the recent murders in California, as well as other mass shooting deaths in recent years, such as Sandy Hook, just something we should come to accept in a country that allows legal gun ownership? If so, how do you explain that to the families of those killed in these shootings as well as survivors? If not, what are some practical solutions to preventing these shootings and other violent rampages?
A Mulvaney: We should never “come to accept them.” We should do everything possible to prevent them…but that does not mean abandoning our 2nd Amendment rights. We could stop most of the gun violence by ignoring our 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures – just have the police go door to door to confiscate guns – but that isn’t how this country works. The flip side of liberty is responsibility. We need to learn how to live safely and peacefully with our liberties without giving up our Constitution.
A Adams: Legal gun ownership is guaranteed by our Constitution, but we should never accept these tragedies. We need to continually look for ways to prevent them. Like most Americans, I support Second Amendment rights, but there are other Amendments, too. The First Amendment gives us the right to peaceable assemble. Violence can take that away, the Fifth Amendment gives us the right not to be “deprived of life liberty or property, without due process of law.” Violence can take that away. My point is that we each have all of these right given to us by the founders. Like the Ten Commandments, we cannot pick and choose among them based on our personal preferences.