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Red meat square-off

May 7, 2010 | 10:29 am

GOP Senate debate How's this for a loaded question: Republican candidates vying to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Barbara Boxer were asked at a debate Thursday night whether people on the Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list should be allowed to buy a gun. Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner: the genius who came up that question. It's not only a litmus test for reasonableness vs. ideology, it sends two sacred cows galloping toward an unavoidable collision. 

For the record, former Rep. Tom Campbell responded, "Ah, no!" Deposed Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina gave an unconditional "Yes." And Assemblyman Chuck DeVore said yes, assuming the suspected terrorists hadn't been convicted of a felony. I guess it's reassuring that DeVore isn't looking to eliminate the federal ban on felons buying guns, at least where it comes to people on the no-fly list.

A pox on all their houses. The question demands a far more nuanced answer than any of them gave, one that combines Campbell's concerns about terrorists toting newly unboxed lethal weapons with the admonition Fiorina voiced about the no-fly list being over-inclusive. But nuance goes out the window in a primary, where candidates strive for purity, not reason.

But how would you have answered the question, which evidently sprung from the mind of one of the journalists on Thursday's panel (Warren Armstrong of KFSN, Mark Matthews of KGO and John North, KABC)? Take our poll, leave a comment, or do both!

-- Jon Healey

Photo: At Thursday's debate, a focused Carly Fiorina stands, fittingly, with Tom Campbell on the left and Chuck DeVore on the right. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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