Sixth Congressional District candidates spar over gun control, natural gas pipelines

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Candidates in the race for the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives faced off at E.C. Glass High School on Monday. It was the only scheduled debate the candidates have had so far.

Incumbent Congressman Bob Goodlatte and challenger Kai Degner discussed key issues such as government regulations, job creation and gun control.

The debate regarding guns hits close to home for voters in Southwest Virginia. Tragedies such as the mass shooting at Virginia Tech and the murder of two Roanoke journalists happened during Goodlatte's two decades in office. The Republican said creating new laws is not the solution to gun violence, but that current laws need to be enforced properly.

"To see them also not enforced in regards to criminals and people with mental health issues who are getting access to guns because the current laws aren't being enforced doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me," Goodlatte said.

During the debate, challenger Kai Degner was vocal about his opponent's ties to the National Rifle Association.

"We should reduce the number of people unnecessarily dying from guns, while also protecting people's constitution right to bare arms," said Degner.

When asked how he planned to reduce gun violence, Degner responded "I think you have to look at each specific legislation, I will not give you a soundbite on the gun-violence thing." Degner went on to say gun violence is a complex issue and that he would discuss in detail if doing an in-depth interview.

Another hot button issue during the debate was the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. The controversial 301-mile project would pump natural gas through Southwest Virginia and other states.

"We have to make sure we have affordable energy, that is a key to continued economic growth in this country," said Goodlatte. "But where those pipelines go is something that needs to be carefully considered by those agencies that are responsible to make those decisions."

Degner emphasized a need for green-energy projects.

"The future is green energy and energy that has less carbon in it. But in the meantime, we have to manage a responsible transition to that point," Degner said.