Peltola speaks of Second Amendment rights, not gun control, following Nashville shooting

woman in striped jacket
Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola in the halls of the Capitol in January. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

While the Nashville school shooting has some congressional Democrats renewing the call for a ban on weapons like the AR-15, Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola spoke Tuesday of her support for the Second Amendment.

“I just appreciate the opportunity to put a plug in for the many, many, many Americans who are responsible gun owners,” Peltola said at a subcommittee hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee. 

The subject she was responding to was the Pittman-Robertson Act, a 1937 law that taxes guns and ammunition and sends the revenue to the states for hunter education, shooting ranges and wildlife conservation.

Gun ranges, Peltola said at the hearing, give kids a chance to learn gun safety, and to be ethical hunters. 

“You look at some of the tragedies that are occurring, and those aren’t hunters, those aren’t kids that have grown up with hunting and the good values that, I think, hunting and hunting families provide,” said Peltola, who was raised in western Alaska on subsistence hunting and fishing. “So I just … like the opportunity to give a plug for Second Amendment rights and good values.”

Peltola is a Democrat serving her first full term. Her predecessor, Don Young, was a fierce protector of the Second Amendment and a board member of the National Rifle Association.

Peltola has struck a more moderate tone on gun control, saying during the campaign that she supports “common sense” gun rules and a bipartisan committee to propose new legislation to Congress. As with many of the moderate positions she taken, her stance on firearms disappoints some of the Alaskans who voted for her. 

Juneau retiree Ben Muse got a letter Monday from Peltola’s office – a response to a letter he sent weeks ago, asking her to support a ban on AR-15-style weapons.

“It was very vague,” Muse said. “She sort of did some hand-waving about the Second Amendment.”

Peltola wrote that she supports encouraging safe gun storage and enforcing laws already on the books, as well as prioritizing behavioral health. 

Muse, dissatisfied, posted the letter on Twitter. He said he doesn’t regret voting for Peltola. But her letter hit him hard, especially coming on the same day as the Nashville school shooting.

“I understand the need to balance, to compromise in a state like this, the different interests. And sometimes compromise involves compromising on things that are painful to compromise on,” he said. “But the letter she sent me was just totally inadequate to the day.”

Peltola’s position on guns isn’t wholly satisfying to Second Amendment advocates either. The Gun Owners of America lobby gave her a D rating last year.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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