Democratic House candidate Matt Castelli (N.Y.) says he "will stand up for the rights of gun owners." But his aides tell a different story in private, according to video of a campaign training session obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
In a Zoom call this week, a Castelli campaign staffer told a group of volunteers that the Democrat is "for gun control," including bans on AR-15s and so-called assault rifles. It is the second time this week that a Castelli supporter has suggested he supports curbs on gun ownership. "The issue of guns is an incredibly tricky one in this upstate district. I know a lot of us would prefer a stronger stance on guns, but he would absolutely lose if he took that stance," Jennifer Mann, the chairwoman of the Brunswick Democratic Committee, told supporters in an email this week.
Those remarks contradict Castelli’s public claims that he opposes gun bans. Castelli, running against Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, said in an ad earlier this month he will "stand up for the rights of gun owners." He said last month he opposes a ban on assault weapons, calling proposals to do so "ill-defined."
It marks a pattern in New York’s 21st district, one of the most conservative in the state. In 2018, Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb privately assured a teenage supporter she supports gun bans but could not say so publicly because she would lose her race.
"When I was at this thing today, it was the first table I was at, a woman said, ‘How do you feel about assault rifles?' And I said they should be banned," Cobb told a supporter, the Free Beacon reported. "And I said, you know, people were getting up to go, to go get their lunch because it was a buffet, and I just said to her, I want you to know Cindy, I cannot say that."
Cobb said that an official with Moms Demand Action, a gun control group, advised her not to state her position on guns publicly because she "will not win." She lost to Stefanik by 14 points that year, and by 17 points in a rematch in 2020.
While Castelli has repeatedly said he supports the Second Amendment and owns guns himself, he attended a rally in June organized by March for Our Lives, a national student group that supports a variety of gun control measures, including a national registry for gun sales, a ban on gun ownership under the age of 21, limits on how many firearms an individual can purchase each month, and regulations on how Americans store their guns. He expressed support at the rally for a bill signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D.) that bans the sale of some guns to people under 21 and strengthened so-called Red Flag laws.
"To pass legislation to actually address this challenge. Right now, there’s urgency in order to make sure we’re in a position to keep our kids and our community safe," he said.
Castelli and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment.