Political Insider

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GOP candidates for governor raise concerns about bump stock ban

Several Republican candidates for Georgia governor raised concerns about a potential legislative push to ban “bump stock” devices that investigators said could have helped the Las Vegas gunman kill dozens of people and injure hundreds more in the nation’s worst mass shooting.

All four of the GOP candidates – Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and state Sen. Michael Williams – said they would oppose state-level restrictions on the devices. But how they staked out their stances differed greatly, and offered a window into their competing strategies.

Williams grabbed headlines earlier this week when he announced a raffle of one of the devices and claimed with no evidence that the gunman’s use of them “prevented more casualties.” It led to a wave of national attention, the latest in a string of brash attention-grabbing efforts that have defined his campaign.

Kemp, whose Facebook page features a video of him hunting in Georgia’s backwoods, noted that he recently used a bump stock during a campaign event in Moultrie.

“No one was harmed because guns - and add on devices - do not kill people. Crazy, deranged lunatics like Steven Paddock do,” he said, citing the Las Vegas gunman. “I do not support a ban on bump stocks. It would undermine our constitutional rights while accomplishing nothing."

Hill, too, said he would not support a bump stock ban at the state level and that it should be left up to Congress. But he echoed the National Rifle Association’s call for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether the devices comply with federal law.

“My main concern is any legislation going through Congress will be hijacked by the left and the media to undermine Americans’ gun rights,” he said. “Therefore, I agree with the National Rifle Association; this should be addressed at the regulatory level within ATF and the Trump administration.”

And Cagle, the presumptive GOP front-runner, said he would oppose state-level restrictions and embrace the NRA’s call for a federal review. Cagle campaign manager Scott Binkley also offered a note of caution alluding to Williams’ fiery rhetoric.

His campaign manager Scott Binkley added: “We do oppose political stunts that capitalize on a national tragedy. It's tasteless and is beneath the dignity of Georgians who strongly support the Second Amendment."

Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators, Republicans Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, said they were open to legislation that would ban the “bump stock” devices. And the leading Democratic candidates for governor, Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, called for new gun restrictions after the shooting.

More: What Georgia thinks about: Banning bump stocks

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.