Politics
6:07 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Rand Paul's Targeting of D.C. Gun Laws a Step Backwards Among Black Voters, Says Congresswoman

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in his most recent visit to west Louisville.
Credit Alix Mattingly/WFPL News

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is once again seeking to roll back Washington, D.C.'s strict gun laws.

The legislative maneuver is under fire from gun control activists in the nation's capitol and their congressional delegate, who told WFPL Wednesday that Paul's amendment is undermining his national efforts to court black voters.

Earlier this week, Paul proposed an amendment to a hunting bill that would—among other things—repeal D.C.'s registration requirement and end the city's ban on semi-automatic weapons.

It would also expand residents' right to carry guns outside their homes, leaving only federal law to regulate gun ownership.

"Both Congress and the Supreme Court have recognized that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals to keep and bear arms," Paul spokesman Dan Bayens said in a released statement.

"Despite these Constitutional protections, law-abiding citizens of D.C. are deprived of the opportunity to access handguns, rifles, and shotguns that are commonly kept by private citizens throughout the United States."

That argument didn't sit well with gun control advocates in D.C. Several called the move hypocritical in light of the Kentucky senator's signature belief that the federal government shouldn't interfere with local control.

In a telephone interview, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's congressional delegate, said it also puts Paul at odds with the predominately-black city.

"You got to at least be consistent with your own philosophy," Norton said about Paul. "So when he comes in and tries to take away what is very important to any big city, it's own gun laws, and then on the other hand says 'See what I'm doing for all you African-Americans,' you will not be appreciated in the African-American community here or across the country."

As WFPL reported this week, Paul's attempts to win over minorities has been a bumpy political exchange.

The senator met Monday with a Louisville minister in a predominantly African-American area to discuss his support of school choice.

"I don't think there's anybody in Congress doing more for minority rights than I am right now," Paul said.

The comments were quickly rebuked by the vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said Paul's record wasn't distinguished enough.

In her interview with WFPL, Norton commended Paul's legislative proposals such as a bill co-sponsored with Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker to reform the criminal justice system. Norton said Paul, however, doesn't understand the importance of gun regulations for black voters in major metropolitan areas.

"It shows he does not understand the importance of guns as an issue for African-Americans across the U.S.," she said. "Here he’s taking the initiative to go after the gun laws of a big city like some big cities in his own state. What sort of message does he think that sends to those African-Americans or those in Chicago or Detroit or Los Angeles or New York?"

A 2013 poll conducted by the National Journal showed minority voters tend to embrace gun control laws at a higher rate than their white counterparts.

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