WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Less than a week after two Connecticut police officers were killed in an ambush, U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes called for a national ban on assault weapons, while her Republican challenger, George Logan, stressed that more needs to be done to support law enforcement.
The two are locked in a closely watched race for the state’s 5th Congressional District that has attracted more than $5 million in outside money.
Appearing in their first televised debate, the pair was asked about a shooting that left two officers dead in Bristol, about 20 minutes away from where the debate was held. Hayes said officers like her husband, a 25-year-veteran of the Waterbury Police Department, can be outgunned.
“His revolver carries 13 rounds. There’s no chance for a police officer against someone who can fire 80 rounds in a matter of minutes,” Hayes said. “There is no reason for those weapons of war to be in our communities.”
Noting that Connecticut already has an assault weapons ban, Logan criticized Hayes for voting in favor of what he called an “anti-police bill.” He was referring to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which banned chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement while creating national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. The bill was later blocked in the Senate.
“I’m the only one on this stage that has been consistent in supporting our law enforcement,” said Logan, a former state senator. He called Hayes “inconsistent at best.”
Hayes, who touted her efforts to bring home millions in federal dollars for police grants and funding for community services, defended the legislation, saying it provided both resources and accountability.
“I think everybody in our community can agree that both of those things are necessary,” she said.
The shooting deaths in Bristol marked an especially violent week for police across the U.S.
Despite state statistics that show overall crime in Connecticut declined 3% between 2020 and 2021, Logan argued that the 5th Congressional District, which includes much of western and north-central Connecticut, is “less safe.” He blamed the policies of President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which he said Hayes supports.
“People feel less safe in their communities. That is the fact of the matter,” he said.
Hayes countered that she helped to pass legislation that included additional funding for local police departments with fewer than 125 officers, the vast majority of departments in the sprawling 5th District. She also stressed that she has pushed to fund crime intervention and mental health programs.
“Crime is a problem, but we have to address it from all directions. And I’ve been around long enough to know,” she said. “Over-policing is not the only way to address the root causes of crime.”
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