FLORENCE — Congressional District 1 candidate Gary Kiehne made extreme comments about gun rights at a Republican primary debate Saturday.
Asked how he would protect gun rights, Kiehne said he owns more guns and ammunition than the other candidates and said everyone should own a gun.
When it comes to mass shootings, “if you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people,” Kiehne said to an audience of about 60 people. “So I don’t think you have a problem with the Republicans.”
No one at the debate challenged Kiehne’s remark, and Kiehne provided no evidence to support the claim.
When it was his turn to answer the question, candidate Adam Kwasman said he supports gun rights and said, “it’s a God-given, natural right to keep and bear arms.”
Tim Sifert, Arizona Republican Party spokesman, declined to comment on Kiehne’s remarks, but said the party encourages voters to interact with candidates and vote for the candidate who best represents their views.
Candidate Andy Tobin did not attend the event, which was hosted by the Pinal County Republican Committee.
The primary election is Aug. 26. The winner of the Republican primary will face incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in November. Kirkpatrick did not respond Saturday to a request for comment.
Here are a few more issues Kiehne and Kwasman addressed at Saturday’s event:
VA HOSPITAL PROBLEMS
Kiehne and Kwasman agree Veterans Affairs leaders must be held accountable, and Kwasman said Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign.
Kiehne said Congress should give whistleblowers protection.
Kwasman said the government should get rid of the VA healthcare system and replace it with a voucher system that would let veterans choose their own doctors.
Kwasman said he’s against “any type of legal status or amnesty for those who are here illegally.” He supports guest work programs and enforcing employer compliance with the I-9 forms, which state an employee is legally allowed to work in the U.S.
He also supports a “double-layer border fence” with National Guard support, he said.
“I’m a big fan of people coming in the front door and signing the guest book, not going through the back door and raiding the refrigerator,” Kwasman said.
Kiehne said deporting every illegal immigrant isn’t realistic.
“I don’t believe you can just grab every one of them and send them back to Mexico or wherever they came from,” he said. Instead, he would take an inventory of the people who already are here and place them in work programs if they’re not criminals.
Many illegal immigrants are contributing to society and aren’t asking for citizenship, he said. He would allow those people to apply for work-visa programs that allow them to work here for a limited time. Those programs currently require people to apply from their home country.
“If you really want to look at the cold, hard facts, I challenge you to go to a construction site anywhere around the Phoenix/Tucson/Maricopa area and find a framing crew that can speak English,” he said. “If you like $100-a-square-foot homebuilding costs, you’re gonna love $200-a-square-foot homebuilding costs if you package all of ‘em up and send ‘em home. The truth is they’re here, they’re working.”
Illegal immigrants who are criminals must be deported, he said, and securing the border will help stop smuggling “and the potential terrorists that have been coming across there.”
BALANCING FEDERAL BUDGET
Kwasman said he supports a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, including a spending limit. He said the states could act as a board of directors, requiring a supermajority of states to approve any debt ceiling increase.
Kiehne said the government should be run more like a business, with Congress offering incentives and bonuses to departments that are efficient and frugal with taxpayers’ money.
Both candidates said they oppose the expansion of Medicaid and the Common Core school curriculum.