CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and her Republican challenger, Steve Negron, sparred Tuesday over gun control, immigration and abortion in their latest debate and seemed to only agree completely on two things - their love of the Boston Red Sox and New Hampshire’s four seasons.
Kuster, seeking a fourth term in the 2nd Congressional District, and Negron, a state lawmaker from Nashua, began the debate Tuesday by weighing in on the caravan of several thousand Central American migrants headed to the United States.
While President Donald Trump is sending troops to stop what he calls an invasion of migrants, both candidates took a softer line.
Both said they would be open to allowing migrants from the caravan into the country if they qualified for asylum. Kuster went further and said people should be allowed to apply for asylum in their home country. Negron, in contrast, said the United States also had to strengthen its and protect American citizens. He supports building a wall along the U.S-Mexico border.
“These are asylum seekers. They are fleeing from persecution, from violence in their home country,” Kuster said. “We need a lawful process for them to seek asylum. If they fulfill those protocols, then yes they would be allowed in and, if not, then they would be sent back.”
Negron, whose grandfather came from Mexico in 1921, criticized the migrants for carrying flags from their home country and not the United States and said “let’s not throw everyone into asylum.”
“We’re a land of laws. There is a right way to do it. We are not doing it and we need to get back to it,” he said. “Let’s process every one of those people through and, if they meet the criteria to come into this country, we will allow them in. But the president has a fundamental responsibility to protect the citizens of the United States.”
The two also disagreed about the best response to mass shootings in recent months at churches, schools and, over the weekend, at a synagogue where 11 people were slain in the worst act of anti-Semitic violence in American history.
Kuster called for stronger background checks for prospective gun owners, more funding for mental health and the passage of laws allowing family members to petition a court to have a firearm taken away from someone presenting a danger to themselves or others.
“What I think we can do better is close the loopholes for background checks and my opponent doesn’t want to close the loopholes,” Kuster said. “I would suggest a no-fly-no-buy. If you are a terrorist and we don’t allow you to fly on our airplanes, then you shouldn’t be able to walk in and pick up a gun.”
Negron complained that responsible gun owners were always being blamed when there was a mass shooting, and he said the answer to the problem was focusing on mental health, not stronger regulations on guns.
“This is a constitutional right,” Negron said. “My opponent wants to take away that right under the guise of being a little bit more gun responsible … What we have here is a mental health issue. It isn’t about guns.”
Negron was also challenged over his position opposing abortion in all cases, sidestepping a question over what should be done if a woman with a medical emergency would die if she had to deliver a baby.
“We want to bring back an archaic idea that we have to choose between a mother or a child,” he said. “I think we have prenatal care that is outstanding … Right now, we don’t get to this point where it’s so draconian that we have to make a decision that it’s the life of a mother or the life of a child.”
Kuster, an adoption attorney for 25 years, said she believes there should be “less government interference in people’s personal lives” including in their decision to have an abortion.
“I don’t think it’s a decision for the government,” she said “It is one of the most personal decisions … I represented over 300 women with unplanned pregnancies. It’s not the government’s choice whether they would carry a baby to term, whether they would terminate a pregnancy or whether they would place a baby for adoption.”
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