Kentucky kafuffle: Candidates bicker over guns, marriage equality

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Democrat Jack Conway spoke out against arming teachers as a way to prevent schoolhouse shooting sprees, while Republican Matt Bevin advocated random drug testing for people receiving public assistance as the gubernatorial candidates bickered on a range of issues in a televised debate Tuesday night.

The rivals differed on right-to-work legislation, the need for a higher state minimum wage and whether to legalize casino-style gambling during an hourlong debate at Centre College that was broadcast across Kentucky.

The face-to-face meeting, sponsored by AARP, comes less than a month before the Nov. 3 election. Both candidates kept up their favorite lines of attack on personal and policy issues.

Asked to wade into the gun-control issue in a state where gun rights are cherished, the candidates were urged to express their views on gun-free zones following the most recent mass shooting in the U.S., at an Oregon college. The shooter killed nine people and himself.

“The answer to gun violence at schools is not putting more guns in schools in the hands of the teachers,” Conway said.

Bevin spoke out against putting restrictions on where people with concealed carry licenses can legally take their weapons. He was critical of gun-free zones that he said can be targeted by mentally ill people looking to inflict harm.

“We should not have it so easy for someone to walk into a school or a theater or wherever and know that nobody will challenge them,” he said.

Both candidates opposed more restrictions on gun purchases. Conway, the state’s two-term attorney general, said states should be more diligent in getting the names of people deemed mentally ill onto registries aimed at keeping guns out of their hands.

Meanwhile, Bevin said that people receiving public assistance should be held accountable through drug testing. The Louisville businessman advocated testing that would not violate the recipients’ constitutional rights. He said that if public safety employees face random drug tests, so should people on public assistance.

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