Kentucky's U.S. Senate race could become a powerful study in whether doing nothing to close the so-called terrorist loophole in American gun laws is actually a liability in elections.
Jim Gray, the out man running to unseat Rand Paul in the U.S. Senate, is hammering his Republican opponent for allowing “suspected terrorists to buy guns.”
Gray released a new digital ad attacking Paul over his view. A voiceover asks, “When will Rand Paul vote to prevent terrorists from buying dangerous weapons?” It ends with “Rand Paul isn’t just wrong, he’s dangerous.”
Paul is one of the many from his party who voted Monday against California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to ban anyone on the terror watchlist from being allowed to buy a gun — an idea often called “No Fly, No Buy” because people who aren’t allowed to board a plane shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns, advocates say.
Gray told The Advocate ahead of the vote that “it’s not that complicated. If you’re too dangerous to buy an airplane ticket, you’re too dangerous to buy an assault weapon.”
Gray also took on Paul’s usual tactic of cloaking himself in the Constitution: “When we talk about the Second Amendment — I support the Second Amendment — but the Second Amendment was created and designed to prevent tyranny and not to encourage terror. We are talking about terror here; we are not talking about compromising the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
For his part, Paul hasn’t been talking much about gun control since the Orlando massacre when a shooter killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. He told Roll Call that he supported an alternative that nobody has actually proposed in the Senate — including him.
"I do think that there's one answer here that if we put it up, everybody could vote for it,” he told Roll Call, saying advocated for the idea in his caucus. “That's the idea that if you have been investigated by the FBI, that your file remains open for five years. And that you would remain on the terror watch list."
Paul suggests that keeping a person’s file open would have stopped Omar Mateen from shooting up an LGBT nightclub. Under current laws, the FBI had no warning that Mateen had purchased a semi-automatic rifle because investigators had already concluded their work. Mateen had been removed from a terror watchlist after being on it from 2013 to 2014, according to the FBI. Under those circumstances, Feinstein says her legislation would have barred Mateen from getting a gun because it included a provision that meant anyone who’d recently been on the list, even if they’d been removed, could be blocked.
Paul voted against that idea on Monday, along with 52 other senators. The only two Republicans to vote for Feinstein’s proposal were Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — both face reelection in close races.
Gray, the two-term mayor of Lexington, is trying to make his race closer.
“The greatest responsibility our elected officials in Washington have is to keep Americans safe,” he said in a statement after Paul’s vote. “Sen. Paul has repeatedly failed to meet his standard, and he did so again tonight by voting to keep open a loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy guns. This isn’t the first time he’s taken such a dangerous position but is the latest example of how out of touch Sen. Paul is with what’s right for Kentucky. We need leaders who will do the right thing, not those who contribute to the dysfunction that has left Washington broken.”
Watch Gray’s latest ad below: