Van Irion and Jean Howard Hill
Van Irion brought a copy of the U.S. Constitution and a gun Tuesday when he visited the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board.
When asked point blank if he was carrying a weapon, the Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate calmly replied he was: a .22-caliber handgun.
The former U.S. Air Force air traffic controller, who currently works as a patent and constitutional attorney, said he carries it for protection.
"An armed society is a polite society," he said.
Mr. Irion lives outside the 3rd District, but said he lives near the 3rd District line in the 2nd District. His law office address is Knoxville.
Having recently picked up the endorsement of presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul, Mr. Irion said he is a "constitutionalist" and believes most federal programs are unconstitutional. He said the government should not interfere with the free market.
"Free markets take care of themselves," he said.
He also said the U.S. Department of Education should be abolished and that the $500 million Tennessee received in federal Race to the Top money was a "horrible idea" because it requires states to adopt federal standards for teaching history.
Amanda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education, said the state did not have to adopt any federal standards related to curriculum when it accepted the Race to the Top money.
Justin Hamilton, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Education, said states can adopt core standards for English and math developed by the National Governors Association for extra points on their application, but said it was not mandatory and states don't have to participate in the grant program.
Tennessee has not adopted the standards yet. Mrs. Anderson said the state board of education likely will approve them at the end of July.
"The standards themselves are completely developed at the state level," Mr. Hamilton said.
Mr. Irion said later he misspoke about the history standard, but said history will be the next standard adopted. He said he got his information from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Lindsey Burke, a policy analyst with the foundation, said the current focus is on national standards for math and English, and said she is not aware of a push at this time for national history standards.
Mr. Irion said he does not support publicly funded schools, but said he did attend them as a student.
Richard Wilson, a professor of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who said he votes Democratic, said he did not know if Mr. Irion's views will have broad appeal.
"I'm not sure all of the particular positions on the Constitution he's taken are going to be satisfactory to a large number of Republican primary voters or to the general election electorate," he said.
Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...