CARNEGIE, Pa. — Democrat Connor Lamb is holding firm in his belief that Congress doesn’t need to pass stricter gun control laws following the school shooting in Florida, insisting the best way to deter these kinds of horrific events is to enforce the laws on the books.
The stance puts Mr. Lamb in line with President Trump and the candidate’s Republican rival Rick Saccone in the special congressional race here in western Pennsylvania, which is doubling as the first electoral test of post-Florida gun politics.
Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, a former student, is accused of shooting up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Wednesday and leaving 17 dead and 15 injured. He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
“No parent should ever drop their child off at school and be afraid they won’t be alive at the end of the day,” Mr. Lamb said. “My heart breaks for those families in Florida and, in Congress, I will work to make sure that people with serious mental illnesses do not have access to guns.”
Mr. Lamb said more money needs to be invested in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and enforcing the background check system.
He said he would be willing to look at proposals aimed at strengthening the system, including closing the gun show “loophole” and expanding firearm background checks in internet sales, but said the focus should be on mental health.
The remarks put him on the other side of the issue from former President Barack Obama, top Democrats on Capitol Hill, and progressive liberals who are demanding new laws, with some calling for an assault weapons ban.
Mr. Saccone, meanwhile, said he and his wife are praying for the victims of the horrible tragedy and said national Democrats are using the tragedy in Florida as an “excuse” to crack down on law-abiding gun owners.
“The left always their solution is to jump on the gun itself and law-abiding citizens,” Mr. Saccone said during an interview in his campaign office. “They want to disarm law-abiding citizens as a solution to crimes like this. It has nothing to do with this crime.”
“So they are going to call for more gun laws and more gun control and so forth and that wouldn’t have affected this at all,” he said. “That is what they do, everytime, they use it an excuse to jump on that.”
Mr. Saccone and Mr. Lamb are running for the open seat here in the 18th Congressional District, which includes the suburbs south of Pittsburgh and counties along the state’s border with West Virginia.
Mr. Trump won the district by 20 percentage points in the 2016 election and Republicans have held the seat since 2003.
Republican Rep. Tim Murphy vacated the seat last year after getting accused of having an extramarital affair.