BATAVIA, N.Y. - The politics of gun rights is suddenly front and center in the race for New York's newly-drawn 27th Congressional District.
The new district is the most conservative district in the entire state, and is likely the most pro-gun. Two Republicans are fighting for the right to challenge Democrat incumbent Kathy Hochul. One of them, Chris Collins, is under fire for something he did involving gun control when he was Erie County Executive.
These days, when Collins speaks to local Republicans, he's forced to explain a document he signed four years ago, when he first took office.
"As soon as we found out what it was, we disavowed it and took our name off," Collins said.
The document was a pledge to join a gun-control group started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The group, called Mayor's Against Illegal Guns, also included county executives nationwide in 2008. Collins signed on as one of them.
Many gun rights advocates are staunchly against Bloomberg's group. Collins's opponent, Iraq War Veteran David Bellavia, has been attacking Collins for days about it.
"We need to know that, when you read a bill, like the Affordable Health Care Act, that sounds great too. Let's sign onto it. It's Obamacare. And we're against Obamacare as Republicans," Bellavia said. "We need to read what it is we're signing up."
Collins first tried to explain his position to a Niagara County gun rights group Monday, telling the audience, "So that was a distortion. It is what it is. I signed on for five days and got snookered." Video of his comments was posted on YouTube.
Collins told 2 On Your Side that it may actually have been a couple of months before he withdrew.
REPORTER: What did you mean by snookered?
COLLINS: Well, maybe that was an adjective I shouldn't have used, but the title of it is "illegal guns" and I think most most everyone would say, "i'm absolutely opposed to illegal guns. And we did not deep dive (into) what they stood for, and when we found out about it, we disavowed any knowledge of it.
REPORTER: If you signed it not knowing exactly what you were getting into, how do you think that makes you look?
COLLINS: Well, clearly, we should have read it in more detail. I wasn't in office long. I'm not trying to make an excuse for signing it. What I want to confirm is, I have always been, and always will be a very strong proponent of the second amendment. Which is what my opponent is distorting because he can't talk about the issues -- the economy, jobs, and spending, because he's got no credibility or solutions for those.
Bellavia said he's happy to discuss the economy with Collins, as soon as Collins agrees to a series of debates. Collins said he's agreed to two of them, and that they're working out the details. Bellavia's campaign said that's not true and that Collins is stalling.
The primary election between the two is June 26.