U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has received the endorsement of Americans for Responsible Solutions,”the super PAC led by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.
“We really strongly believe that Congressman Murphy is the best person in this race to fight for the responsible steps that we need to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Kelly said in a conference call organized by the Murphy campaign on Wednesday. “He’s the guy we need to help prevent gun tragedies, and he is the candidate that will help make Florida communities safer from gun violence.”
Americans for Responsible Solutions was created just months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013, and two years after Giffords was nearly killed after being shot at a town hall meeting in Tucson, Arizona.
Murphy said he was humbled by the endorsement.
“We know that the majority of Americans and the majority of Floridians favor reasonable measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands and prevent gun violence,” he said. “But we’re sorely lacking leadership in Congress to get commonsense proposals — like closing background check loopholes and closing the terror gap — across the finish line. In the U.S. Senate, I will always stand with Gabby and Mark in the fight to make Florida families and children safer from gun violence.”
Although Murphy is still very much locked in a competitive primary election against fellow Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, he wasn’t mentioned in the call. But GOP Sen. Marco Rubio definitely was.
Referring to his visit to Orlando on Tuesday as part of a statewide campaign tour he’s on this week, Murphy blasted Rubio for failing to meet with the families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting last month, where 49 people were killed and dozens more injured.
“Sen. Rubio held a closed-door meeting,” Murphy said. “He refused to talk to the many Floridians who made their voices heard outside this private event. He went so far as to call these constituents ‘petty protestors.’ That to me is insulting, to admonish citizens who are expressing his record of consistently opposing gun prevention measures, and instead of listening to these cries of Floridians who have been deeply impacted by this gun violence, Sen. Rubio played the blame game.”
According to an account in the Orlando Sentinel, Rubio was confronted by approximately 30 protestors at an appearance near the Pulse nightclub shooting scene. He said he was trying to help coordinate aid for Pulse shooting victims and their families from various federal agencies, including the FBI’s victim fund.
Kelly criticized Rubio’s voting record on guns on the conference call.
“Marco Rubio has voted repeatedly to protect the loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers and even terror suspects get guns without a background check,” he said. “He did so after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and he did it again after the tragedy Orlando.”
Last month, the U.S. Senate voted on and rejected four different gun control measures, two sponsored by Republicans, two sponsored by Democrats. Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson voted along party lines on those votes, and the Florida Republican called the Democrats’ proposals “politically motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”
“After lying about his own resume and getting caught delaying needed aid to Floridians for his own publicity, now he’s spreading even more lies,” responded Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the Rubio campaign. “Marco has a strong record of fighting to keep Florida’s families safe.”
Left unclear at the conclusion of the conference call was whether Americans for Responsible Solutions will be supporting Murphy financially or by putting up a campaign advertisement backing his candidacy. Kelly said that as a 501(c)(4) and a super PAC, there are certain rules about independent expenditures that must be adhered to.
“I can’t really tell you because I don’t know, and I wouldn’t be involved because we have legally have set up a firewall between the folks who have been coordinating with Congressman Murphy’s office, and an I.E. (independent expenditure) if we chose to do that,” Kelly said.