Mehmet Oz blames gun violence on recreational marijuana, COVID-19 school closures

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Oz's opposition to recreational marijuana is out of step with over two-thirds of Pennsylvanians who support legalization

Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, last week seemingly blamed increased gun violence on the legalization of marijuana and on COVID-19 school closures.

Oz made the comments on Sept. 30 in an interview with a reporter from a Pittsburgh television news station. The reporter asked Oz how he would reduce gun violence if elected to the Senate.

Oz replied, "I'll give you one concrete example of a policy that really makes it worse: legalization of drugs. If you look at Oregon — and this is a bill that they enacted into law in 2020, John Fetterman strongly endorsed it — but they legalized drugs, and murder rates went up 40%."

Oz did not provide any evidence for his linking of the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Oregon — passed by ballot measure in 2014, not 2020 — and an increased murder rate.

An NBC affiliate in Portland reported in 2021 that, according to police, increases in shootings in the city were attributable to crime, gang violence, and "disputes within the homeless community." They did not mention marijuana legalization as a factor.

The reporter then asked Oz about his position on banning assault weapons. Oz said that he wants to see what a recently passed bipartisan gun reform law "accomplishes" and then immediately pivoted to the issue of mental health:

But I'll tell you, I like the fact there's money being invested in mental health services. What I'm seeing all over Pennsylvania is kids who weren't in school for a year or two floundering, losing their grounding, and then becoming willing to play with guns, use guns in ways that none of us would have ever accepted. And it's the normalization of that that, I think, is leading to a lot of the crime.

School shootings, however, took place long before the COVID-19 pandemic led schools to switch to online teaching in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

For example, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut took place in 2012, eight years before any COVID-19 school closures. And the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took place in 2018, two years before any COVID-19 school closures.

Marijuana is not legal in either Connecticut or Florida.

While Oz denounced the legalization of recreational marijuana, polls show voters overwhelmingly support it.

Polling from Civiqs last posted on Oct. 2 found 69% of Americans support legalizing weed. The same poll found majorities support legalization in almost every state in the country, including 68% of Pennsylvanians.

What's more, Oz has flip-flopped on support for gun safety legislation since entering the race for Senate.

In 2018, he supported a federal ban on assault rifles, before walking back that position. In 2019, he supported so-called "red-flag" laws, which give law enforcement officers the right to confiscate weapons from those deemed to be a threat to themselves or others, but has since said he will vote against any red-flag laws if elected to Congress.

Oz is seeking to keep Pennsylvania's open Senate seat in GOP hands. The seat is up for grabs after incumbent Republican Pat Toomey, who first won it in 2010, chose not to run for reelection.

Oz is facing off against Democrat John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of the state, who supports legalizing cannabis.

Polls show Fetterman with a 6-point lead, according to the FiveThirtyEight average. However, Fetterman's lead has narrowed in recent days as Election Day nears.

Inside Elections, the nonpartisan political handicapping outlet, rates the race a "toss-up."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation