CAREY — A mobile billboard questioning Democratic legislative and gubernatorial candidates’ support for gun rights has drawn attention and criticism from some as it travels across Blaine, Lincoln, Camas and Gooding counties.
The decked-out horse trailer, a joint campaign effort from Republican legislative candidates Julie Lynn, Mike McFadyen and Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, prominently features scores assigned to each District 26 legislative candidate by the National Rifle Association based on candidate questionnaires and/or voting records. The traveling billboard has made stops in Wendell, Fairfield, and, most recently, Carey.
“Guns and the Second Amendment right to keep them is a huge issue with the voters of Idaho, and we want every citizen to know how the candidates stand,” McFadyen’s campaign manager, Don Zuck, said in an email to the Times-News.
Each of the Republicans running for seats in District 26 and gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Brad Little have earned “A” ratings from the NRA, according to the billboard, while Democrats Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, and gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan earned scores of D, C, and F, respectively. Muffy Davis, who is challenging Miller, did not receive a score, as she opted not to answer the NRA’s questionnaire.
The Times-News reached out to the Democratic legislative candidates featured and asked them to explain, in their own words, where they stand on gun rights.
Davis, who chose not to answer a questionnaire from the NRA, said she “totally [opposes] any unlawful, unconstitutional challenge to the Second Amendment,” but believes the state needs to address mental health and how it relates to gun safety.
“It’s a big part of our lifestyle here in Idaho, and I support that,” Davis said. “I just want to make sure we’re safe.”
Growing up in the Wood River Valley, Davis told the Times-News, she saw friends die from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. As a result, she’d like to see the state improve its mental health resources and “make sure access to those guns is only for people who should have them,” Davis said.
“Idaho has a great history of good gun laws,” Davis said. “I think there are ways we can work with what we have, keep our citizens safe, and maintain our Second Amendment rights.”
Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum
Stennett, who serves as Senate Minority Leader, told the Times-News she did not fill out a questionnaire from the NRA, meaning her score was likely based primarily on her voting record.
“I have more guns than I can possibly shoot in my house right now,” Stennett said. “And so I am for the Second Amendment ... but I take each bill by its merit.”
When presented with any bill, Stennett said, she considers three criteria: whether the bill is constitutional, whether it is enforceable, and whether it supports the existing law. She cited a Stand Your Ground bill to codify Idaho’s self-defense case law this past legislative session, saying she voted against the bill because she saw it as “poorly crafted” and difficult to enforce.
When it comes to automatic weapons, Stennett said she urges people to properly train themselves and take appropriate safety precautions.
“We are very, very generous about our gun laws,” Stennett said. “So when we look at what we allow people to carry, I think responsible gun ownership should be part of that conversation.”
Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding
Like Stennett, Toone said she did not fill out any surveys from the NRA, as she only responds to Idaho-based questionnaires. Toone attributed her rating in part to her vote on a bill to temporary restrict gun access for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses.
“It had nothing to do with weapons,” Toone said. “It had to do with the protection of victims.” Toone, a hunter, said she believes Idaho currently has “very good gun laws,” though she said she questions the need for bump stocks, which can make weapons fully automatic.
“Why do you need to shoot 100 rounds in a minute?” Toone said. “But again, everybody has different likes and dislikes. It’s about responsible gun ownership.”
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate has been labeled by opponents as “anti-gun,” particularly after stating in a debate in the spring that the AR-15 “doesn’t have a place here in Idaho.” She has since said that she misspoke and meant to say that bump stocks don’t have a place in Idaho, not the AR-15.
In a meeting with the Times-News editorial board earlier this month, Jordan stressed, as she has in other interviews, that she is a gun owner herself, adding that her brothers own assault rifles. She laughed when told that a sign outside the Twin Falls GOP headquarters described her as “anti-gun.”
“I’m from Northern Idaho,” Jordan said. “It’s not that far away, but people in my community know me better.”