LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dustin McDaniel said Thursday that President Barack Obama's gun control plan is "distressing."
McDaniel spoke to The Associated Press a day after the president urged Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
"It's distressing," McDaniel said. "I have not once but twice led efforts of attorneys general to the United States Supreme Court in defense of our Second Amendment rights."
Obama also signed 23 executive actions on Wednesday, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research on gun violence.
"The biggest concern from the state attorneys general ... is going to be to look at whether the executive orders infringe upon the constitutional rights of our citizens," McDaniel said.
Obama's $500 million plan was announced a month after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
McDaniel, a former police officer in northeast Arkansas, said he was a part-time officer during the 1998 school shooting in Jonesboro that left four students and a teacher dead.
"I went to that crime scene that day and will forever be haunted by what I saw there, but neither then nor now did I believe the proper response to that tragedy was to curtail the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens," McDaniel said Thursday.
McDaniel noted that he owns between 15 and 20 guns.
"I've got a .22 rifle out at the farm that holds probably 30 rounds in a clip," McDaniel said. "I don't think anyone would characterize that as an assault weapon, but you have to be very careful with definitions."
McDaniel's comments come nearly a month after the only announced Republican gubernatorial candidate, former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, was tapped to head a National Rifle Association effort to push for armed officers in the nation's schools.
Hutchinson also seemed wary of some of the president's executive actions.
"Anytime the president does something by executive order, you need to look at it very carefully and see: Is this a prerogative of the president or is this something that Congress needs to act on in terms of legislation?" Hutchinson said.
He said some of the executive orders will likely cross that line, but said some are appropriate. "Directing the attorney general to do a better job of enforcing the laws, that's appropriate," he said.
Hutchinson said he has three firearms.
"One of the proposals of banning semi-automatics would include a firearm that I purchased ... because I was going to be backpacking in the woods in Alaska and I was concerned about grizzlies," he said.