Nunn, considered by many to be the Democratic frontrunner in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, spoke to about 70 people at KSU’s student center who turned out to volunteer for her campaign.
She is the daughter of Sam Nunn, the former Democratic senator from Georgia.
Sitting on a patio outside the student center, Nunn said she was not a fan of lifting restrictions on guns on university campuses or churches, as was proposed in the state Legislature this session.
On a related note, New Jersey lawmakers are debating legislation that would reduce the size of ammunition clips from 15 to 10 rounds. Nunn was asked whether she supported that proposal.
She said she “believes in the Second Amendment” and comes from a family of hunters, but would not rule out voting for tighter gun control laws.
“My mother and father are hunters. They’re teaching my 11-year-old about hunting now, and I also believe that we can have common-sense efforts to ensure that we have background checks and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists and those that are mentally unstable,” she said. “So when people ask me about issues of gun safety, I say, you know, in all of the things I’m talking about, what I’m searching for are pragmatic common-sense efforts, and that’s where I would be focusing my attention and my efforts to advance what I think is important around issues of safety and concern.”
Nunn was again pressed about whether she supports limiting ammunition clips to 10 rounds.
“You know, I think there are a lot of different conversations around that, and I think it’s a little arbitrary how we define that, and so it’s not something that I’m focused on right now,” she said.
Nunn was asked if she supported expanded background checks for private, person-to-person gun sales and sales made at gun shows.
“I support, for instance, the legislation that’s embraced in Manchin-Toomey, which I think was a good compromise, and it is around ensuring that we have background checks extended,” she said. “You know, when I talk to people who are very much in favor obviously of continuing to have access to guns, they don’t want criminals and terrorists to have access to guns. They don’t. And so I think having background checks that I think can be easily accessible for folks and extending that to online sales etc. and guns shows is certainly the right thing to do.”
Russia and immigration
Tensions are high with Russian President Vladimir Putin stationing thousands of Russian troops in Crimea. Nunn shared what she believes the U.S. should do about the crisis.
“It’s obviously deplorable action from Putin and from Russia,” Nunn said. “I think it is a violation of international law. It’s clearly also a violation of Russia’s own commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine. I believe that the United States and the larger free world needs to work in concert to really apply all possible diplomatic action to ensure that Russia does respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. I think we need to put in place economic sanctions and ensure that we really exert the kind of attention that hopefully alleviates the dangerous situation. It’s very volatile, and one that I think we need to be prepared to work together, both Congress and the president and also with our allies to make sure that we turn this back.”
Nunn also shared her thoughts on what should be done with the estimated 12 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
“I think there has been some good bipartisan work around this that’s included folks like John McCain and Sen. Rubio, and there’s been comprehensive reform package legislation in the Senate, and I believe that that is a step in the right direction,” she said. “It asked folks to get in the back of the line if they’re undocumented to actually pay fines, to make sure they learn English, to go through background checks, all those things, but to give them the opportunity and the pathway to citizenship. And as I talk to businesspeople, small business folks, corporate CEOs, farmers across the state, all of them tell me that in order to continue to grow our economy they believe we need bipartisan, comprehensive, immigration reform. So I believe that we need to step forward on this. I believe it’s the right thing to do and I believe it’s the smart thing to do.”
What about Common Core?
The Common Core standards are under furious debate in Georgia and other states as critics complain of federal control.State Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) has authored a bill that would provide a pathway for Georgia to pull out of Common Core. During a hearing in the House Education Committee last week, conservatives praised the bill while the education establishment and Chamber of Commerce denounced it.
“I see Common Core as an effort that was germinated through the states through the leadership of governors like Jeb Bush, like Sonny Perdue,” Nunn said. “I’ve heard Jeb Bush talk eloquently and passionately about this, and I believe that we need to continue to see it through. There was just a poll in the AJC in the front page today that talked about how teachers believe that we need to continue to see this through. So I believe it’s a framework that enables accountability, but also enables customization, ensuring that teachers, as they’ve said, can teach to the Georgia-based curriculum and the things that we want our kids to know, but we certainly should hold ourselves accountable to ensuring that our kids have a quality education that’s second to none across the United States.”
Speaking to the volunteers, Nunn shared her own experiences in volunteerism. After graduating from the University of Virginia, Nunn and a handful of friends got together to create Hands On Atlanta, an organization where young people could engage in service and solve problems in their communities like building wheelchair ramps, tutoring and building houses. Their first public meeting was at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta.
Nunn grew the group into a national organization, merging it in 2007 with President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation.
“We decided that we could do more and better if we joined forces and join forces across differences, because we had one organization that was started at Manuel’s and one that was started at Camp David, so pretty big culture divide, but we found that by working together we created the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service,” she said.
Last year the group mobilized four million volunteers.
A chance to win?
KSU senior Josh Howard, 20, a math major, is the treasurer of the KSU Young Democrats.
“I’m excited about her mostly because I feel like she has a chance to win, which is a lot saying that she is a Democratic candidate in a red state, and I also feel like she has the background, she is a familiar face, people are comfortable with her. There’s a focus on public service, which I feel like is something Georgia is lacking, especially farther away from Atlanta. I see a lot of community work in Atlanta, but in rural areas there is a lot that needs to be done,” Howard said.
KSU sophomore Macey Mullens, 19, is an early childhood education major who serves as secretary of the KSU Young Democrats.
“I think that really a lot of Democrats are underrepresented in Georgia, and in Georgia when there’s ever a Senate election we know how our senators are going to vote,” Mullens said. “They’re always going to vote this way, this way, this way. Georgia never gets a Democratic Senate vote. Well, with Michelle Nunn we’re going to; she has a chance to win and she has great ideas.”