Kathy Weppner told nearly 900 students and faculty members at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute something you don’t hear every day from a congressional candidate, at least in New York State.
“I carry a gun every day,” said the Williamsville Republican who is challenging Rep. Brian Higgins in the 26th Congressional District. “I’m not carrying now because I’m in a school.”
Weppner also said she thinks federal officials in Washington, D.C., should be armed.
“I would never hurt anyone,” she said. “But if you were lucky enough to be in a room with me, and somebody really bad did come in, I might be able to do something about that.”
Weppner made this revelation during a debate Wednesday morning with Higgins at the private boys high school in the Town of Tonawanda, and it sent a ripple through the crowd.
Higgins said he also believes that good people should be allowed to carry firearms but that considerable gun violence has occurred in the country in recent years.
“The framers of the Constitution and the Second Amendment … they could not have anticipated this kind of hell, and they would have provided for flexibility to be sure that guns don’t wind up in the hands of bad people,” he said. “What’s wrong with reasonable checks, just to ensure those arms don’t fall into the hands of bad people?”
Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat seeking a sixth term in Congress, and Weppner, a former WBEN talk-show host, looked at most issues differently, including the debate.
The debate, moderated by teacher Ted Lina, with questions from students in his Advanced Placement class in American Government, was the only one with its format for the two candidates in the campaign, although they have attended other forums together.
Weppner said that she wanted to put the St. Joe’s debate on her website but that one of the ground rules did not allow recording. Print and broadcast media covered the event, the 30th debate the school has sponsored.
The first one occurred in 1988, between congressional candidates Bill Paxon and David J. Swarts.
“The actual voters in Western New York have not had the opportunity to show up somewhere and ask questions and hear the contrasts,” Weppner said.
Higgins said Weppner had missed two of five candidate forums in the last two weeks. Weppner said she never got an invitation to the events.
“This is a great debate; there are a lot of people here,” Higgins said.
The two also disagreed on the Affordable Care Act, which Higgins voted for, Common Core standards for schools, which Weppner opposes, and torture of suspected terrorists.
“I don’t think sleep deprivation or waterboarding is something, if we are going to get valuable information that can save lives, is a horrible thing. I really don’t,” Weppner said.
“Torture should not be tolerated in any context in any part of the world,” Higgins said.