Jim Gray calls on Sen. Rand Paul to support denial of guns for suspected terrorists; Paul says challenger and Obama want to grab guns

06/15/2016 06:51 PM

LOUISVILLE — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray called on his opponent, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, to support efforts to prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms on Wednesday.

Gray’s comments came as Democrats in the Senate filibustered a spending bill in hopes of advancing legislation that would block those listed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s terrorist watch list from purchasing gun and enact universal background checks.

The renewed push for gun policy reforms follows the fatal shootings of 49 patrons at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday by a shooter who professed allegiance to the Islamic terror group ISIS in a 911 call during the massacre.

Gray, underscoring his remarks, held a copy of the Courier-Journal detailing the rampage at the onset of his brief press conference outside the Ron Mazzoli Federal Building in downtown Louisville.

“How many more headlines like this do we need to see before Congress does something?” Gray asked.

“Sen. Paul should tell Kentuckians why he kept the terror-gun loophole open,” the Lexington mayor continued. “He should explain how many more mass shootings need to occur before he takes meaningful action to keep Americans safe. Today I call on Rand Paul to do the right thing: to reverse his position and support closing the loophole so we can prevent suspected terrorists from buying weapons.”

Gray focused on Paul’s vote against similar legislation in the wake of deadly shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., by a couple that also supported ISIS.

Paul instead supported a Republican-drafted amendment that would have allowed the attorney general to delay gun sales to suspected terrorists by 72 hours and given judges authority to block such transactions outright. Both pieces of legislation failed in the GOP-held Senate.

The Republican incumbent countered that Gray and President Obama are looking to “take guns away from law-abiding Kentuckians.”

“In December, I voted to make sure no terrorist can buy guns in the US,” Paul said in a statement. “The legislation I supported, however, prevented the Obama administration from drawing up a secret list of hundreds of thousands or even millions of Americans who through no judicial process are stripped of their rights.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed previous efforts to prevent those on no-fly lists from buying firearms, and the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action issued a statement Wednesday saying anyone on the FBI’s terror watch list should be thoroughly investigated before approval.

Media reports indicate that about 90 percent of suspected terrorists on the FBI’s watch list cleared background checks for gun purchases in 2015, according to data by the Government Accountability Office.

“If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist,” Chris Cox, executive director of NRA-ILA, said in the statement. “At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.”

“Incredibly, both the ACLU and NRA agree: the Obama-Clinton-Gray gun control plan does more to limit the rights of Americans than it does to ensure their safety,” Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson said in a statement.

The Orlando had been on the terror watch list in 2013 and 2014, he was removed at the conclusion of FBI inquiries.

While the legislation he supports would not have stopped Meteen from purchasing firearms, Gray called it “a step forward.” He added that he backed universal background checks but not reinstituting a ban on assault weapons.

“It may not have prevented this incident, but what Sen. Paul needs to recognize is that legislation is present, is available to him today to vote to help this issue,” Gray said.

Gray added that he didn’t expect his call for gun-policy reforms to hurt his chances of besting Paul on Nov. 8. He said he has “a great deal of conviction about this” and that Congress should take action on the topic.

“Most Americans would recognize that this is common sense,” he said. “… Most Kentuckians recognize that this is just common sense, and this is why I support it.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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