Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst says she is “passionate” about gun rights — and she carries a gun nearly every day.
“I carry probably 90 percent of the time,” Ernst told reporters this morning.
Ernst refers to her concealed weapon as her “black purse.”
“It’s something I am comfortable with,” Ernst said. “I’ve grown up with weapons. I serve in the military. I’m comfortable with that, but it is a sense of security, too.”
Ernst, a battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard, spoke this morning at the Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club and gun rights were one of the topics she raised during her remarks.
“The Second Amendment is not just words on a piece of paper,” Ernst said. “We have the right to keep and bear arms, period and it is something that I am willing to defend when I go to Washington, D.C.”
AUDIO of Ernst’s speech and Q&A with audience, 29:40
During a question and answer period with the audience, Ernst said “pretty severe cuts” are needed in the federal budget.
“I don’t believe in an education department at the federal level. I think that is something that we could eliminate and that would save,” Ernst said. “We have to take a good, hard look at entitlement programs.”
Ernst did not mention the entitlements of Social Security and Medicare, however. Instead, she questioned the growing budget for food stamps.
“We have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it, but we have gotten away from that,” Ernst said. “Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything. We have to stop that.”
Ernst served as Montgomery County Auditor for six years. She’s been a state senator for three years and now faces a June 2014 GOP primary battle for the U.S. Senate nomination. At least six Republican men have said they are running or may seek the nomination.
Democrat Tom Harkin announced he would not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2014. Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo has been the only candidate to emerge as the Democratic Party’s likely U.S. Senate nominee.