Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, D, has invited Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, to participate in a moderated televised discussion about gun control. Poloncarz said he reached out to Collins after seeing the congressman’s February 15 interview with Spectrum News about the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school.

“I’m just certainly disappointed in the Democrats who rushed to the microphone in a disgusting way, frankly, instead of having a sit-down and a conversation of what we can do, but, you know, there’s only so much we can do,” Collins said at the time.

Poloncarz said he took the congressman’s call for a sit-down to heart and a day later the two of them had a roughly 20 minute conversation about the issue. He said as part of that conversation, he asked Collins if he’d be willing to take part in a moderated conversation so the general public could view it.

The Republican has been steadfast that he has no interest in holding a town hall style forum because he said opponents tend to shout and grandstand and those types of forums are not productive. Poloncarz said that while Collins was non-committal to this alternative, he took his response as a maybe.

The county executive reached out to the Western New York public broadcasting station, WNED, who said they would be willing to televise the discussion live.

“I sent a text message to Chris saying let’s do this. Let’s get this done. We sent the letter to his office by email and fax and I think we need to have a common sense conversation about what we can do in this country, which I believe is the passage of common sense gun laws,” Poloncarz said.

Collins’ office quickly dismissed the challenge and accused the county executive of doing exactly what he was upset with in the first place, politicizing the Parkland tragedy.

“It’s comical that Mark Poloncarz – who doesn’t actually have the courage of his convictions to run for federal office –  now wants to be a surrogate attack dog and exploit the Parkland tragedy for his own political gain.  We’re happy to have our own surrogate and co-equal member of county government, County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, educate Mark on the national democrat party’s failure to deliver gun control reform when they had full control of federal government in 2009.  Perhaps they’ll even invite Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who gleefully accepted the NRA’s endorsement in her failed run for federal office.  We look forward to Mark and Stefan’s town hall,” campaign spokesperson Chris Grant said.

Poloncarz, indeed, is not running for Collins’ congressional seat, despite some community efforts to draft him. He said that is proof that this is not an election year stunt.

Currently two Democratic candidates are vying for the 27th District and Poloncarz said he doesn’t think a debate would have an effect on the race.

“We are both leaders in the community and can have a frank, non-vitriolic discussion of the topic. I do not believe this will hurt or help his opponent, only reveal who the leaders are in our community,” he said.

Current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray is the endorsed Democrat and favorite to challenge Collins this fall. He said he loved Poloncarz’s challenge to Collins and on Twitter he did the same.

“I challenge you to a debate on firearms. If you think I’m wrong, say it to my face, show the world how silly I am,” he wrote. “You can bring your gun if it will make you feel safe. Because I bet I could beat you on the range too. And at arm wrestling. And at Scrabble.”