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Trio of SD's US House candidates stand behind Second Amendment

Dr. Alisha Vincent, executive director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service, introduces 2018 U.S. House candidates Dusty Johnson, second from left; Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, second from right; and Tim Bjorkman, right. The forum was held in October 2017. (Evan Hendershot / Republic)

No matter which of the three leading U.S. House of Representative candidates South Dakotans pick at the polls next November, they can be sure it's a contender who backs the Second Amendment.

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, Republicans Dusty Johnson and Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, and Democrat Tim Bjorkman, each said they would maintain their support for the right to bear arms if elected next year.

Johnson, a Mitchell resident who served as chief of staff in Gov. Dennis Daugaard's administration and was a Public Utilities Commissioner, said he's willing to learn more about the issue of bump stocks — but he supports "the rights of law abiding citizens to own firearms." Bump fire stocks were used in the Las Vegas shooting that led to the death of 59 people and the non-fatal injuries of more than 500.

While he's willing to look into the bump stock issue to learn "to what extent they can be used to make legal firearms into illegal firearms," he's more concerned with general violence throughout society.

"There have been more than 600 attacks using acid as a weapon in London in the last two years, for instance," Johnson said in an email to The Daily Republic. "I don't want debates about gun control to take pressure off policymakers to address the growing mental health problems facing our country and the world."

His top competitor in the Republican field, Krebs, also stood firm behind Second Amendment rights.

"If there is legislation proposed that can be shown it would have prevented tragedies like we saw in Las Vegas, then absolutely it should be considered, but not at the expense of law abiding gun owners," Krebs said in an email.

Democrat and former circuit court Judge Tim Bjorkman said he backed all Americans' constitutional rights. But the answer to the gun debate isn't taking people's guns away, Bjorkman said in an interview last week.

Bjorkman said expedited background checks that don't exclude gun shows and keeping firearms away from those on no-fly lists are among the first steps in limiting gun deaths in America. Beyond that, Bjorkman said the debate hinges on the "mental health component," an area he said is in step with Republicans.

"What I disagree with them on is that they aren't doing anything about it," Bjorkman said.

The Kimball native said leadership in Congress is "obstructing" efforts that would help limit gun deaths. He said gun deaths are often tied to health care, and the nation should maintain support for addiction and mental health treatment.

The trio of candidates attended a forum at Dakota Wesleyan University last week and will face primary battles next summer. Other candidates, including Democrat Chris Martian and independent George Hendrickson, did not attend.