A weary U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn tried to steer the conversation away from guns after responding to a couple questions about the topic during a town hall meeting Wednesday night. But questioners were determined to talk about gun control legislation, especially background checks.
“I know you want to get off guns, but that's why I'm here,” a woman told Coburn, R-Muskogee, after he twice told a crowd of about 150 at the Metro Tech Technology Center he that didn't want to field any more questions about guns.
Coburn, who traveled more than 1,000 miles since Monday hosting 11 town hall meetings, said he would fight to uphold the Second Amendment. He said he isn't interested in limiting the types of weapons Americans may buy.
“There isn't a gun that's made that isn't an assault weapon,” he said in response to a man who suggested military-style assault weapons be banned. “I believe that the Second Amendment is one of the most important amendments in the Bill of Rights.
“It's important for us to be very clear what our rights are and not infringe on those rights as we try to take a real valid attempt to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and those that are mentally impaired,” Coburn said. “What I'm trying to do right now is both protect the Second Amendment and the 10th Amendment for Oklahoma if we want to do something different.”
Coburn scoffed at proposals to certain types of semi-automatic weapons and ammunition clips.
“We have a right to own those,” he said. “We have the right to have as many bullets as we want under the Constitution.”
Asked by four people about background checks, Coburn said he's working on the issue.
“I want to change it so that somebody who has a gun and wants to sell a gun can know they're not selling a gun to a criminal or somebody not mentally impaired. That's about as far as I'm willing to go in going toward any infringement on the Second Amendment. … I'm not going to infringe on any of our rights guaranteed under the Constitution, period.”
Health care debate
Coburn also predicted Congress eventually repeal the Affordable Care Act, called Obamacare by its critics. He said news reports indicate that insurance rates will at least double next year for individuals and small businesses.
“The Affordable Care Act is a tragedy that we will repeal very soon after it is fully implemented because Americans won't be able to afford the cost of it and seniors won't take the rationing that's going to come with it,” he said. “So what we have is an absolute mess on our hands that's going to get worse.”
After taking questions on illegal immigration and why the U.S. Homeland Security Department is buying large amounts of weapons and ammunition (Coburn said he is looking into that but so far it's unfounded), Coburn encouraged the crowd to focus on the country's economic condition.
“Why are we talking about guns and immigration when our country's going broke?” Coburn asked.
A man who said he is a federal worker complained about wasteful spending at his agency. The man, who declined afterward to give his name or the agency where he worked for fear of being fired, said the agency spent $1.1 million on flagpoles and $800,000 on playground equipment in the past year.
Coburn, who has looked into wasteful spending practices at federal agencies, encouraged the man to go to his website and provide the information.
“I need ammo,” Coburn said.