Republican U.S. Missouri Senate candidate speaks to YAL
Flying in from Missouri, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, Austin Petersen came to the university on April 10 to give a lecture in Gore Hall, hosted by the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL).
Upon his arrival in Gore Hall, Petersen declared that the university, along with all other American colleges, would be “ground zero for free speech,” referencing a trend of conservative public figures being blocked from speaking on certain campuses.
Petersen is running against Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate to challenge Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in November.
Petersen, a professional political commentator and pundit, is a native of Peculiar, Mo., although he currently lives in Kansas City, Mo. He worked as an actor in New York City and Washington D.C., and later founded founded the Libertarian Republic, an online news magazine, and the Freedom Report podcast.
Petersen has differentiated himself from Hawley by relying primarily on grassroots support and individual donations for his campaign. According to the Riverfront Times, a St. Louis newspaper, Petersen has set the national record in digital currency campaign donations after receiving $4,500 worth of bitcoins.
After initially supporting Rand Paul during the early stages of the U.S. presidential campaign of 2016, Petersen ran himself for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president, a race he lost to New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Critics question Petersen’s decision to jump ship to the Republican Party, however Petersen claims to have maintained his fiscally conservative and libertarian values.
“I have changed zero of my principles,” Petersen said. “The GOP is just my vehicle to bring liberty back to America.”
Although he applauds President Donald J. Trump’s deregulatory agenda, Petersen fears that too much power has been vested in the executive branch of the federal government at the expense of the legislature. If elected to the Senate, Petersen would advocate reduced government spending, lower taxes, rolling back various regulations, reducing America’s military presence overseas and decriminalizing recreational drug use.
“When it comes to marijuana, politicians are behind the times,” Petersen said. “The war on drugs has been a bloody war on our own citizens, and it has had racial undertones.”
Whereas many Libertarians allow for women’s abortion rights, Petersen stands totally opposed to the practice, which he perceives to be the “murder of an unborn human being.” Petersen advocates defunding Planned Parenthood Federation of America and overturning Roe v. Wade. He believes that citizens who may be likewise ethically opposed to abortions should not be forced to pay taxes to an organization providing abortion services .
Petersen is a staunch opponent of gun control legislation. In September 2017, he was banned from Facebook after giving away an AR-15 rifle as a campaign promotion. The ban was lifted after a report by Fox News and the New York Post revealed that Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, was one of McCaskill’s top political donors. On March 6, Petersen announced a second AR-15 giveaway on Facebook, and his personal account was immediately banned again.
In response to efforts to pass stricter gun control legislation in the wake of mass shootings, Petersen has called for conservatives to demand expanded Second Amendment rights.
“No tragedy justifies the government taking away our constitutional rights,” Petersen said. “Now that a former Supreme Court justice has openly argued for repealing the Second Amendment, we need to stop waiting on the defensive. We need to go on the offensive. No more compromises and concessions.”
Petersen advocates a repeal of the National Firearms Act of 1934, which imposed regulations and taxes on the manufacture, sale and interstate transport of certain types of weapons, and former Rep. William J. Hughes’ Amendment to the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1968, which banned civilian ownership of new machine guns. He supports the passage of the Hearing Protection Act, which would decriminalize gun silencers, and the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which would validate concealed carry permits across state lines.
“What is the militia [in the context of the Second Amendment ]? It is the whole of the people, minus a few government officials,” Petersen said, citing a speech by George Mason at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. “The fight now must be to expand liberty. Now, all we can do in Washington [D.C.] is debate how to take it away.”