North Carolina Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop agreed that action is needed to tackle mass shootings across the country, including one at Charlotte's public university campus in April that killed two and wounded four.
McCready, Bishop and two other candidates are facing a special election on Sept. 10 to fill the 9th Congressional District seat that has been vacant after ballot fraud was discovered in last year's race.
Bishop said he is willing to at least debate limiting high-powered weaponry and passing "red-flag laws." Those laws allow someone's guns to be seized, at least temporarily, if concerns are raised that they pose an imminent danger.
"I don't rule out the possibility that some form of weapon needs to be prohibited," Bishop said. He said his conditions for potential gun laws would be that they respect Constitutional gun ownership protections and limited "liberal judges" from going too far.
"Beyond that, I'm open to discussing every idea," Bishop said.
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McCready said he "absolutely" wants red-flag laws, which he said Americans across the political spectrum support. The former Marine Corps officer said he also would require everyone buying guns to undergo background checks, eliminating a loophole that currently requires the checks for purchases at stores but not private sales.
"One of these crazy white nationalist guys could just roll up into a gun show right here in North Carolina and buy all the assault weapons they want. And do terrible things with them. So, if a law-abiding citizen goes through a background check, everyone should," McCready said.
Both candidates largely ignored a question on what they would do to guarantee people affordable health coverage if the federal Obamacare law is scrapped.
Bishop, who favors repealing the Affordable Care Act, later said he would replace it with "innumerable market-based innovations."
One example the Republican state senator highlighted is legislation he sponsored that was recently passed allowing farmers, small businesses and trade associations to group together for insurance. The goal is helping people who can't afford insurance coverage on their own or companies that can't offer it because the premiums are so high.
The plans cannot deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition, but they also aren't required to cover all the medical services from prescription drugs to chronic disease management required by the ACA.
"If you get sick, the insurance company doesn't even have to pay for your medication," McCready said.
The special election was called after ballot fraud aimed at helping the Republican in last year's race was discovered. Mark Harris, the GOP candidate who seemed to win last November by about 900 votes, didn't run again. Bishop, of Charlotte, won a 10-way primary in May.
The 9th District has been in Republican hands for 56 years and President Donald Trump won it by 12 percentage points in 2016.
Last year's voided election means McCready, who started a Charlotte financial firm that raised money to build solar farms, has been campaigning for the congressional seat for more than two years. He faced no primary challenger.
Bishop is a lawyer and Christian conservative who served on the Mecklenburg County Commission in the state's most populated city before spending the past five years in the state's General Assembly. There, he sponsored a 2016 state law that blocked local governments from adopting anti-discrimination rules that protected LGBT residents. A 2017 Associated Press analysis found the law will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost economic activity over several years.
Bishop has emphasized his strict allegiance to Trump, including his support of Trump's plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.
McCready has focused on health care and education issues and said he won't support investigating whether Trump should be impeached. He has avoided associations with congressional Democrats, even mildly rebuking his party for its contributions to partisan hostility.
The election has drawn millions of dollars from super PACs and dark-money groups eager to crowd local television with advertisements blasting their opponents.
On Tuesday, Trump announced he would visit Fayetteville, on the eastern edge of the 9th district, to campaign for Bishop on Sept. 9, a day before the election.
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