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Lieutenant Governor Candidates Clash Over Guns, Trump

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The recent shooting in Las Vegas is creating a new flashpoint in the final few weeks Election 2017: guns.

During a debate Thursday evening, Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor Jill Vogel said it’s too early to draw any conclusions from the mass shooting in Las Vegas. When asked if she would support a ban on bump stocks — accessories that transform rifles into automatic weapons — she did not address that point directly and instead appealed for preserving gun rights. 

“If you restrict people’s gun rights it does violate the Constitution," Vogel said. "And number two, as we have proven time and time again, taking people’s gun rights away does not restrict gun violence in the way that people believe it will."

Democrat Justin Fairfax said now is the time to move forward on universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines and a ban on assault weapons.

“Senator Vogel said that restricting someone’s gun rights is a violation of the Constitution. That’s patently false," Fairfax responded. "All of our rights in the Constitution we support and believe in. But there are restrictions on all of them when they are in the best interest and the safety and the health of our citizens.”

Gun rights advocates and gun control advocates are both spending heavily in this election cycle, hoping that their side will prevail and have the final say on state gun laws in Richmond. 

Donald Trump is not on the ballot this year in Virginia, but his Presidency was an issue Thursday night.

Fairfax attacked Jill Vogel for her support of Trump.  “She supported him in the election. She voted for him. She tweeted on the night that he won that he’s going to make America great again, and that’s what she believes," Fairfax argued. "Well I don’t think he’s making America great again. I think what he and his appointees are doing are unraveling so much of the protections and so much of the progress that we have made as a country.”

Vogel did not try to distance herself from Trump. “So I am unapologetic about wanting to make Virginia great again, about wanting to make America great again, about being Republican. But I’m also unapologetic about the fact that in ten years in the Senate of Virginia, I have never been afraid to break with my party,” Vogel responded.

Polls show Trump is unpopular in Virginia, which is the only southern state he did not win last year. 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.