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GOP Presidential Candidates Offer Varied Responses To Oregon Shooting


A lot of politicians are being asked what to do about gun violence after a gunman killed nine people in Oregon last week. And the answers from the large field of Republican candidates for president are varied. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Neurosurgeon Ben Carson talked about guns and the Oregon shooting yesterday. He said more needs to be done to figure out who's mentally ill, who shouldn't have a gun in the first place. But one comment he made while speaking with USA Today's Susan Page, it made some waves.


BEN CARSON: If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere, would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon. I would feel more comfortable.

SUSAN PAGE: The teacher?

CARSON: If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn't.

SANDERS: It was the latest in a series of remarks from GOP candidates about guns that have raised some eyebrows. On Friday in South Carolina, Carly Fiorina seemed to suggest America should go after those who already own guns illegally.


CARLY FIORINA: Let's start with - we know about a whole bunch of people who have guns and aren't supposed to. They're on a list, and yet we're not doing anything about it.

SANDERS: She gave no specifics about that list or who has it. In an essay published on his website, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal linked last week's shooting to the shooter's absent father. And just after the shooting, Jeb Bush said this.


JEB BUSH: Look; stuff happens. There's always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something, and it's not necessarily the right thing to do.

SANDERS: But polling suggests most Americans do favor some specific gun-control measures. Here's Jocelyn Kiley from the Pew Research Center.

JOCELYN KILEY: There's widespread support for background checks. There's widespread support for laws that would prevent mentally ill Americans from buying guns. There's also a fair amount of support for a database that would track gun sales. And there's majority support for a ban on assault-style weapons.

SANDERS: That's when you ask about individual gun-control measures. But Kiley says things are a lot less cut-and-dry when you ask about gun control this way.

KILEY: When you ask Americans a broader question about which is more important, protecting gun rights are controlling gun ownership, we find and we've found for a while that Americans are pretty evenly divided on that question.

SANDERS: Basically, Americans favor gun control more in theory, less so in practice. And according to Pew, Republicans have shifted even further towards the gun rights side over the last 15 years. Kiley points to a bill that was moving through Congress in 2013 just months after the school shooting in Sandy Hook. That bill would have mandated background checks for gun owners. Kiley says at that time, almost 3 out of 4 conservative Republicans in the country supported background checks, but only half supported the background check bill. That bill, in case you're wondering, it ultimately failed in Congress. Sam Sanders, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam worked at Vermont Public Radio from October 1978 to September 2017 in various capacities – almost always involving audio engineering. He excels at sound engineering for live performances.
Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.

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