Rand Paul: Obama politicizes tragedy, uses Newtown families as 'props'

Sen. Rand Paul says gun control is a legitimate issue for political debate. But he says President Obama has used the parents of children killed in Newtown, Conn., as ‘props.’

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky speaks to reporters in Washington on Wednesday at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

With votes on gun control legislation scheduled to begin in hours, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky accused President Obama of using the parents of children killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting as “props” in some cases.

The first term senator was asked at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters on Wednesday whether the bombings at the Boston Marathon had any policy implications for gun control or immigration legislation. 

“It is largely a mistake to talk about issues in the wake of crisis, in the wake of tragedy,” he said.

Senator Paul, the founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, said he thought gun control “is a legitimate issue for our country to debate and decide where and how we can fix the problems of violence.” 

Noting that he has three sons, Paul continued, “I hate to see using people … as props and politicizing people’s tragedy. When I see the father and the mothers … testifying and I know they are coming voluntarily and they want to come and be part of this debate. It still saddens me just to see them. And I think that in some cases the president has used them as props. That disappoints me.”

The Senate was scheduled to take up gun control legislation Wednesday afternoon with the sponsors of a bipartisan background check amendment saying they lacked the 60 votes needed to secure approval. 

Paul said, “I come down on the side of not being for any of the proposals because none of the proposals would address the tragedy.”

Earlier, Paul had led the effort by 13 Republican senators to filibuster any strengthening of gun safety laws.

Asked to respond to Paul’s comments, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, "I don't know if Sen. Paul met with the Newtown families, but the Newtown families aren't here for the president.”

“They're here because their children were murdered," Carney said. "They're here asking for the Senate to do something that's common sense.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that its new national poll showed ebbing support for stronger gun control legislation. Some 49 percent of those polled now support stricter gun laws, down from 58 percent in January, a month after the Newtown shootings.

Earlier polls had shown large support for expanded background checks on gun sales. That included majorities of National Rifle Association (NRA) members.

The new AP poll also found that 52 percent of the public disapproved of how President Obama has handled the issue of gun laws. 

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