Young, Murkowski hold fast on gun rights

A handful of gun control advocates made a ruckus at the Petroleum Club Monday night, where Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young were speaking. Photo: Elizabeth Harball

After the high school shooting in Florida last week, advocates nationwide are pressuring politicians to take action on gun control. But Alaska’s members of Congress are unapologetic supporters of gun rights and have top ratings from the National Rifle Association.

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Young says he feels for the survivors of the school shooting.

“All the sympathy. You bet. I have sympathy for the victims and their families. But the solution isn’t what they say it is,” Young said at a forum at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage, sponsored by Commonwealth North. “The solution is to say, what has happened to our families? Where’s the breakdown in society?”

Young has served for years on the board of the NRA. He says guns aren’t to blame for mass shootings, though he does finds fault with video games, which he says warp the mind.

“Have you ever seen the video games? It’s the most violent thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Young said. “And they go through it over and over and over again. And the bad guy gets killed and they come back the next day. Or the next hour. You keep that up and your brain gets burnt.”

Young stopped short of calling for video-game control.

“That’s something we’re going to have to look at,” Young told reporters referring to video game violence. “Can we stop that, or do we have to have everybody lose their Second Amendment?”

Anchorage artist and former teacher Dana Dardis was one of the protesters escorted from the Petroleum Club by police officers. Dardis says the problem with gun violence has many facets.

“But one simple thing is to ban the AR-15,” Dardis said, beginning a list of several measures she wants the Alaska delegation to support in Congress.

Dardis agrees with something Young said: a determined killer will find another lethal method. But she says there ought to be restrictions on guns designed for easy mass murder.

“I mean look at what happened in Las Vegas,” Dardis said. “Fifty-eight people that were killed a very short span of time. You can’t do that with a knife. You can’t do that with gasoline.”

Both Young and Murkowski have voted against banning assault weapons. They, along with Sen. Dan Sullivan, have repeatedly voted to block new gun restrictions. Murkowski said Monday she’s torn, as a lawmaker, a parent and “clearly a supporter of (the) Second Amendment.” There are no easy answers, she said, though she acknowledged the trend of mass shootings is alarming.

“We cannot continue on the trajectory we’re on,” Murkowski said.

A spokeswoman says Murkowski plans to co-sponsor a bill that would fund school training aimed at preventing violence. The proposal was in the works long before the latest mass shooting.

Reporter Elizabeth Harball contributed to this story from Anchorage.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage.

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