The fatal on-air shooting of two television journalists in Virginia on Wednesday was a common topic of conversation among Kentucky political leaders the next morning.
Elected officials and candidates gathered Thursday morning for the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast & Auction at the Kentucky State Fair. In a departure from national Democrats who have called for more stringent gun laws, Kentucky Democrats joined Republicans in saying new gun laws were not needed to prevent future incidents.
Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee for governor, called the incident “very troubling.” But he said additional gun laws wouldn’t have prevented the shooting.
“I’ve been very clear that we need to do a better job of tracking who’s mentally ill and who’s not. I don’t think there’s anything we need to change the laws in that particular situation,” said Conway, who is finishing his second term as the state’s attorney general.
Andy Beshear, Democratic nominee for attorney general, echoed Conway’s sentiment, saying current gun laws just need to be enforced more effectively.
“Ultimately, I think we have the right laws in place that offer us the protections that we need right now. I just think that we need to make sure that we’re following them,” Beshear said.
Gun control is one of several issues that many Kentucky Democrats come at odds with the party’s national stance.
In her bid last year to unseat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes distinguished herself from President Barack Obama, who had pushed for strict gun control policies after shootings like the one at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Conn.
Drew Curtis, an independent candidate for governor, was alone in showing support for some sort of gun control legislation. But Curtis said some considerations would need to be made for pro-gun interest groups.
“Why wouldn’t you want to do some of these measures?” Curtis said. “Like tagging bullets? Why wouldn’t you want to do background checks? Maybe there’s a chance they’d be willing to work with us on some of this stuff. So right now, no specific answers, but that’s where I would go.”
Matt Bevin, the Republican nominee for governor, said that new laws wouldn’t be able to curtail “evil” shootings like the one in Virginia, and that gun rights should be upheld instead of curtailed.
“The Second Amendment makes it very clear that frankly one of the best ways to curtail things like this is to make sure that people who are not evil have the ability to stand in the gap and stop things like this,” Bevin said.
The father of one of the slain Virginia journalists on Thursday called for lawmakers to address gun violence in the U.S., accusing politicians of “being in the pockets” of the National Rifle Association, according to The Hill.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said she would push for policies to cut down on gun violence if elected.
At the Ham Breakfast in Kentucky, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t weigh in on whether he’d support or oppose new gun control legislation.
“These incidents are always disturbing. Trying to figure out what you can do about somebody who is crazed and intent on committing murder is a vexing problem going back to the beginning of the country,” McConnell said.