Levi Tilleman doesn’t like guns. The Colorado congressional candidate’s stance on firearms is a cornucopia of anti-gun daydreams: an “assault weapon” ban, a 10-day waiting period, a safe storage requirement, and a magazine ban all make the list.
When comparing himself to his competition in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, Tilleman proudly points out that he doesn’t own a gun.
All of this makes the video below that much more satisfying.
Tilleman proposes that instead of allowing teachers to arm themselves, schools (funded by American taxpayers) should arm every teacher with a can of pepper spray. Teachers shouldn’t carry the pepper spray on their person, of course, but can instead store it in a “break glass in case of emergency cabinet.”
To demonstrate the effectiveness of his solution, Tilleman allowed himself to be sprayed in the face.
“This will stop anyone in their tracks,” he says in the video. “It’s incredibly painful. And now I can’t see anything. It’s just unbearable. It’s like lava in your eyes.”
“I would say, without a doubt, it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced in my entire life,” he later told the Denver Post. “Nothing compares to this.”
Commenters underneath the Facebook video pointed out that Tilleman appears to retain his ability to move and speak even after being sprayed.
On the contrary, Tilleman’s team counters, the candidate was “completely incapacitated.”
“The scene where Levi says he still can’t see anything was about 40 minutes after the initial shot,” they reply on Facebook. “He was completely incapacitated. He couldn’t even sit down without assistance — and he had a team and supplies to help him wash off the pepper spray… It’s extremely effective!”
That’s unlikely. In a real active shooter situation, pepper spray would be only “marginally effective,” Joe Eaton, director of FASTER Saves Lives told us via email. Eaton’s program trains teachers to carry firearms in schools and use them in an emergency.
“[This is] another example of someone who has not taken even the slightest amount of time to study and try to understand these events,” he said. “Schools relying totally on a ‘less-then-lethal’ solution to a lethal threat are negligent and are endangering their students and staff.”
“There is no ‘continuum of force’ in schools like there is for law enforcement,” he continued. “In a school there is either a lethal threat or a non-lethal threat… If the threat is a non-lethal threat, then the schools already (should) have policy and procedures in place to deal with this situation and would continue to deal with it exactly the same way they do today even after they have included firearms as a part of their safety plan.”
“Ask this knucklehead if he is also planning to ask the police to forego firearms in a lethal threat situation.”
It’s possible he would. Tilleman told the Denver Post that this was the best solution to school massacres he and his team had been able to develop.
“The solutions that are being offered by both Democrats and Republicans aren’t working,” he said. “That’s why I sat down with my team and we thought through ways that we could get around the talking points that have been mouthed by party apparatchik for decades. This was the best solution that we could come up with.”
The efficacy of pepper spray against an armed assailant isn’t the only false claim that appears in Tilleman’s ad. Aurora school board member Kevin Cox’s assertion at the video’s beginning is also untrue. The Washington Post first reported that more children have been killed in schools this year than service members killed in combat. Upon further research, however, they have retracted that claim (though they haven’t changed their headline).
Tilleman is the underdog in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District primary race against Democratic candidate Jason Crow. He faces a steep fundraising disadvantage and the party has reportedly decided to back Crow. If he manages to pull off the upset, however, the race against Republican incumbent Mike Coffman is expected to be close.