The election is Tuesday: Where do candidates on the Allegheny County ballot stand on gun violence after synagogue attack?

By Oliver Morrison

Nov. 1, 2018

(Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

After the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday that left 11 dead, the gun control debate loomed.

Some politicians immediately began calling for gun control measures, while others said that it was, and is, too soon to politicize the tragedy. Some sitting politicians and hopeful candidates have called for increased efforts to tackle hate violence, and some have said nothing public at all.

This Tuesday, the synagogue shooting will likely still weigh heavily on the minds of voters. At the polls, they will have a chance to vote on who they want leading the debate on gun laws and hate crimes. PublicSource emailed the following question to all 51 candidates who will appear on the Allegheny County ballots on Tuesday:

Following the mass shooting in Squirrel Hill, what legislation do you plan to introduce or support to keep Pennsylvania residents safe from gun violence?

We gave the candidates a day and a half to respond and received 21 responses. We will add additional responses that we receive as they come in, leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

Race — U.S. Senate

Dale Kerns, Jr., Libertarian
The tragedy in Squirrel Hill further reinforces that there is immense hatred, racism, and xenophobia which continues to embed itself in our culture. We must not let this terrorist's bigotry push lawmakers into making drastic decisions which prove unwise in the long run.

As President Trump signals desire for armed guards in places of worship and expansion of the death penalty, my opponents have called for new restraints on the rights of innocent, law-abiding people to own firearms.

I am supporting none of these haste-filled proposals. This is not because the tragedy at the Tree of Life is not worthy of a response. Rather, it is too important a moment in our nation's history to rely on government to lead.

New laws will do nothing to stop another such occurrence. Moreover, we will sacrifice our citizens' liberty for a false sense of security. History shows that when we look to politicians for protection, we often receive far less than promised, and at a heavy price.

I understand the instinct to look toward government when such heinous acts take place. However, our true answers always lie first within ourselves and our communities. Those within Pittsburgh and across the country, in rejecting hate and fear in favor of hope and love, have shown just that.

To quote Mr. Rogers, who lived just three blocks from the site of this catastrophic event, in times of chaos and uncertainty, we must "[l]ook for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

Neal Gale, Green
I don’t believe assault weapons have a place in civilian society. Although I understand there are collectors and enthusiasts who claim their right to shoot them on target ranges, or simply display them in their collections, I believe they present too great a threat to the rest of the population. There is too much potential for unbalanced individuals to gain access to these weapons.

Consequently I will support Universal background checks, to provide an effective screening out of individuals who should not be allowed to own a firearm. All gun sales must be subject to rigorous background checks, and I will also support requiring mandatory, standard training for anyone, prior to receiving a firearm.

I will also support legislation which represents a straightforward judicial process designed to take guns out of the hands of those who have been identified by law enforcement officers and/or family members, as posing a threat to themselves as well as to others. Passage of such legislation is extremely important, given the very high percentage of deaths due to suicide (approximately twice the number of murders).

I can see no justifiable reason for after-market products, such as bump-stocks, to be available for any purpose whatsoever. I will support legislation that would ban their sale, possession and manufacture in the United States.

I believe that Concealed Carry Reciprocity, mandating that each state recognize concealed carry permits from every other state, does not recognize the differences among states where concealed carry permits are more easily obtained and those where such permits are more restricted. Those differences need to be respected as a matter of public health, which gun violence is. States with lower population densities and long standing traditions of gun ownership may determine that concealed carry permits do no harm in their jurisdictions, whereas states with more densely populated areas may have concerns.

I believe legislation that allows teachers and other school personnel to be armed in the classroom is attempting to create a false sense of security in our schools. Even where teachers have firearms training, increasing the number of guns in our schools also increases the opportunity for access to those same weapons by those who would do harm with them.

Race — U.S. House of Representatives, PA-18th

Race — Governor

Kenneth Krawchuk, Libertarian
Regarding the recent synagogue shooting, my heart goes out to the victims and their families and friends. The urge to do something to prevent future shootings is very strong, but we must be cautious. More important than solving the problem correctly is making sure we solve the correct problem.

Are guns the problem? President Obama commissioned the Center for Disease Control to investigate gun violence, and they found some interesting results:

  • There is no evidence that gun restrictions reduce gun violence.
  • There is no evidence that right-to-carry laws increase violent crime.
  • Gun turn-in programs are ineffective.
  • Most importantly, guns are used defensively far more often than used in crimes. In other words, guns save lives.

[Some of Krawchuk’s takeaways are disputed; this is the CDC report.]

John Lott, a researcher at the University of Chicago, studied the issue and found the same results. He also found that cities with the strongest gun control had the highest gun crime rates. Further, he found that if a woman resists an attacker, she’s twice as likely to be seriously injured. But if she resists with a handgun, she’s half as likely to be seriously injured. In other words, handguns are a girl’s best friend.

That said, it’s unfortunate none of the congregation were armed. They could have taken swift action and reduced the carnage significantly.

In this world there will always be hateful people with no respect for their fellow citizens. The best way We The People can stand ready is to respect the right to keep and bear arms.

Race — Lieutenant Governor

Race — State Senator, 38th

Race — State Senator, 42nd

Race — State Representative, 21st

Sara Innamorato , Democrat
My heart breaks for the 11 lives lost and those injured in the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. I am inspired by the power of Pittsburgh to stand in solidarity against hate and bigotry. We are all in shock of being the latest city to be the site of the mass murder and must look at how we can end mass shootings in America. This lens must also not be the only one we use to address the gun violence epidemic. In order to end gun violence, we must look at designing policies understanding that the majority of gun deaths are suicides and single-person homicides. For many communities, gun violence is a daily occurrence. I believe in common sense gun regulations that will keep our families and communities safe while allowing responsible citizens to own and keep guns. I support the legislation (HB 2060) recently passed by the General Assembly that tightens gun laws to protect victims of domestic violence.

Our campaign supports the following types of legislation that will:

  1. Require gun owners to report lost and stolen guns.
  2. Close the loophole in background checks to ensure that the private sale of long guns in Pennsylvania is the same as the private sale of handguns to make sure that guns are not available to those with histories of domestic violence, felony convictions, and severe mental illness.
  3. Allow law enforcement or family members to initiate a process to confiscate firearms from any person (deemed by a judge) who represents an extreme threat to themselves or others. This legislation mirrors other “Extreme Risk Protection Order” laws passed in Texas, Calfornia, and Indiana.
  4. Regulate the sale of ammunition.

Beyond purely regulating firearms and accessories, we must also design an economy that works for us, not corporate interests, by addressing the growing income inequality and ending poverty.

Race — State Representative, 23rd

Jay Ting Walker, Green
To address mass shootings, I would support legislation proposed by State Senator Wayne Fontana to ban military style assault weapons and large magazines. I would support legislation to require background checks for all private gun sales and not just handguns. I would vote against legislation that preempts local gun control ordinances. I also oppose stand your ground legislation and arming teachers or school guards. I support CeaseFirePA's advocacy on this issue.

The recent shooting was an anti-Semitic hate crime which requires solutions beyond improved gun control. Our state under reports and under convicts hate crimes making it harder for us to catch bigots sooner. We need to treat documented hate very seriously. Our hate crimes law should also be expanded to protect LGBTQIA+ people and people with disabilities.

Mass shootings in our state make up a small portion of gun homicides. Pennsylvanians killed by guns are disproportionately black and disproportionately live in low income communities. Addressing a legacy of poverty and systemic racism will take a lot more than simple legislative fixes. We need to end the war on drugs and treat addiction as a public health issue by decriminalizing drugs and utilizing harm reduction strategies. We also need to drastically reform our criminal justice system and eliminate the school to prison pipeline. In addition, we need to address our state's massive income inequality by raising the minimum wage, enacting a statewide single payer health care system, and using a fair funding formula to bring quality education to all Pennsylvanians.

Race — State Representative, 27th

Race — State Representative, 28th

Race — State Representative, 30th

Race — State Representative, 36th

Race — State Representative, 40th

Race — State Representative, 42nd

Race — State Representative, 44th

Oliver Morrison is PublicSource’s environment and health reporter. He can be reached at or on Twitter @ORMorrison.

Sign up here for PublicSource's weekly newsletter.