• John McGary, Woodford Sun News Editor

6th District candidates speak at library,‘Town Hall’ meeting aimed at gun control

Four of the candidates seeking to unseat Sixth District Congressman Rep. Andy Barr took part in a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon at the Woodford County Library’s main branch in Versailles.

About 20 people attended the meeting.

The event was part of the March For Our Lives (MFOL) movement that began after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 and wounded 17 others. To the right of the candidates were empty seats with placards bearing the names of the frontrunners in the race who didn’t attend – Republican U.S. Rep. Barr and Democrats Amy McGrath, Jim Gray and Reggie Thomas.

Above the candidates who did attend was a handwritten sign with several MFOL goals:

Establishing universal, comprehensive background checks for gun purchases.

Moving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms “into the 21st century” with a digitized, searchable database.

Allowing Centers for Disease Control funds to be used to research the “gun violence epidemic in America.”

Banning high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

The candidates, all from Lexington, were given several minutes to introduce themselves.

Democrat Geoff Young said he was the only peace candidate in the race and that a natural ally for MFOL is the Black Alliance For Peace.

Young said his philosophy echoed the event slogan, “Stop the war against innocent civilians.”

Chuck Eddy is a Republican who said for the first time in his life, he voted Democratic last November. He noted that Barr voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and for a tax cut package expected to add at least a trillion dollars in debt over the next decade.

Frank Harris is a Libertarian who said he was pro-Second Amendment, but believed there were ways other than gun control to reduce gun violence. He said many of the wars America has fought in over the last 50 to 60 years were not wars of self-defense.

Daniel Kemph said he’d been an Independent and Republican until 2014, when he registered as a Democrat. He spoke against “institutional, systemic inequality” and said he was horrified by the sights of Nazis marching in the street in Charlottesville, Va. and children participating in active shooter drills.

Audience members asked several questions about gun control, some of which were only answered by one or two candidates.

Eddy said he supports the Second Amendment but believed it should be interpreted differently today than when it was written more than three centuries ago. “I am for the immediate suspension – not ban, suspension – of what I call semi-automatic, rapid fire military weapons. I’m for the suspension of the manufacture of them, the sale of them, the import of them. I am for banning bump stocks and anything to convert a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon …” he said. “The guy in Los Vegas killed 59 people, wounded hundreds, okay? Was he using an automatic weapon? No, they’re banned. … So I’m in favor of banning anything that’s able to convert a semi-automatic weapon into a close-to automatic …”

In the back of the room was a man with a hand-written sign warning that Jews, Muslims and others would be killed if their guns were confiscated. None of the candidates at Saturday’s forum advocated taking guns away from lawful gun-owners. The sign-holder said a bump stock could be made at home using common household materials and asked, “So you’re going to ban straws, coat hangers and duct tape?”

Eddy said the question was a “straw man” argument and that while you can’t ban everything that can kill people, you can improve things.

He asked members of the audience whether they drove to the library that day, and when they raised their hands, asked how many of them were licensed, joking, “If you’re not, I’ve got to call a cop on you.”

Harris told Eddy, “With your position on guns, I’m really surprised you’re not a Democrat.” Harris then asked whether any in attendance, when they were young, had a teacher who punished the entire class for one child’s misdeed. “Did that policy make any sense to you? Does it make any sense to one today? … “I think that government tends to run on two basic premises. They try to ban things based on the worst behavior possible, from the worst citizen possible. They also try to coerce people into things by saying, ‘It’s for your own good. Some people aren’t doing it, therefore we’re going to create a government program that forces everyone to do it,’ and government does not do anything very well.”

Harris said banning specific guns doesn’t work, because criminals will still acquire weapons and law-abiding citizens will become criminals by acquiring them.

Young spoke several times of the novel, “Catch 22,” in which an American pilot realizes he’s threatened more by superiors with ever-increasing orders for bombing missions than the Germans who were shooting at him.

“The enemy (in America today) is anybody who’s … enacting laws and policies that are going to make it more likely that young people get killed, violently. Those are the true enemies of any progressive movement, including this one,” Young said.

Young said natural allies for MFOL include the Green Party, the Socialist party, and, potentially, the Labor movement, and that enemies of progress include politicians who promote war.

Kemph said he supported two methods of combating gun violence: a national, minimum purchase age of 21 for guns, and charging people who don’t report guns stolen from them as an accessory to crimes committed with the stolen guns.

“I understand that a lot of our 18-year-olds participate in the military, but in that environment … it’s a gun environment and it’s responsible and it’s (overseen by) instructors. When you go and sign up, on your first day, they don’t just hand you a gun, you have to go through a whole process before you receive it,” Kemph said. “A minimum purchase age of 21 prevents that guy who just runs down to Walmart and grabs the first gun he can get and goes off on his merry way.”

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