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GOP senate candidates hesitant to support stronger background checks

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Republicans running to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate said they would be hesitant to support any new legislation regulating firearms, even after President Donald Trump called for legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users.

The candidates instead said that the two mass shootings over the weekend showed a crisis of morality in America and that citizens’ Second Amendment rights need to be protected.

While Trump offered few details on Monday morning about what kind of legislation he would like to see, he did condemn the shootings in Texas and Ohio left at least 31 dead as crimes “against all humanity.”

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said, adding that he had directed the FBI to examine steps to identify and address domestic terrorism. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America,” he said.

Alabama’s Republican candidates running for Senate in 2020 said existing federal and state laws on regulating firearms need to be implemented better.

“First of all, we need to implement the laws that we have already on the books, and I think it’s pretty clear that that is not taking place,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Alabama Daily News.

“I am reluctant to place any further restrictions on the availability of or the purchase of firearms for our citizens because I believe we have to protect the Second Amendment.”

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore said on Twitter that the mass shootings were evidence “of a moral problem in our Country, not a lack of gun control.”

Congressman Bradley Bryne said that the shootings were proof of a conflict “between good and evil.”

“The hatred we saw coincides with the continued breakdown in the values and institutions – like the church – that have always played such an important role in our country,” Bryne told Alabama Daily News. “We can stop these mass shootings by fixing the breakdown in culture and at the same time protect our Second Amendment rights.”

In a statement sent from state Rep. Arnold Mooney’s campaign, he criticized Democratic politicians calling for more gun control reform during the aftermath of mass shootings.

“Arnold Mooney believes it’s a mistake for the left to use tragedies like this one to try to enact their radical, anti-Second Amendment agenda,” Mooney spokesperson Jordan Gehrke told ADN. “Not a single idea being pushed by the Democrats would keep guns out of the hands of criminals: all they would do is disarm law abiding citizens, and ensure that criminals are the only people with guns.”

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville told Alabama Daily News that he wants to stand up for “the time-honored traditions” that Alabamians hold dear and believes in defending the Second Amendment at all cost.

“Background checks very rarely prevent criminals, the mentally ill, and terrorists from getting guns,” Tuberville said. “Career politicians have failed to address the challenges facing the mentally ill. They have no strategy-no plan!  Congress needs to come off their vacation and do their job!”

Incumbent Democrat Sen. Doug Jones said in a series of Tweets on Sunday that more needs to be done for gun safety laws but also said that the failure to protect those killed “is more than about guns.”

“Our failure to protect people is more pronounced today given the early reports of racial motivations behind the shooting in El Paso,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, that seems to the tone that has been set in this country, we must come together and reject political rhetoric, or any kind of rhetoric for that matter, that divides us and stokes this kind of hatred. Our leaders need to set a positive example that others can follow. That my friends is something we can do now.”

Jones has been a long-time supporter commonsense gun safety reform and during his maiden speech on the Senate floor in March 2018 said that the background check system needs improvements.

“We have to do more on background checks,” Jones said “We have to require background checks on all gun sales, whether it is at a gun show or over the internet or between individuals. It can be as simple as going to a licensed dealer or local police station to have a background check run on a prospective purchaser or transferee. It may be inconvenient, but it will save lives.”

In February, the House approved bipartisan legislation to require federal background checks for all gun sales and transfers. It also passed legislation to allow a review period of up to 10 days for background checks on firearm purchases, but those bills have not come up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

While Congress is in a five-week recess, it appears that the two parties are retreating to their usual corners on gun control measures, gearing up for another round of gridlock.

The Associated Press contributed to this reporting. 

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