CeaseFirePA, an organization that supports gun control measures, criticized former U.S. Rep. and Attorney General hopeful Patrick Murphy this week for a statement he made on the campaign trail – and his record in Congress.
As a Congressman, Murphy co-sponsored a federal ban on assault weapons. But he also voted to repeal Washington DC’s local firearms regulations, including an assault weapons ban and mandatory handgun registration, and cosponsored a bill that would force Pennsylvania to accept concealed carry permits issued by other states.
“[Murphy] has taken good steps in the past. He co-sponsored the federal assault weapons ban. But then he was attacked by the NRA, and he never did the right thin again,” said CeaseFirePA Director Max Nacheman. He also sent a letter to Murphy about comments he made during a recent endorsement meeting with the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police:
“We were concerned to hear your statement earlier this week about your views regarding the Second Amendment relating to reasonable reforms to reduce gun violence,” wrote Nacheman.
Murphy was quote this week in the Daily News saying, “Either you believe in the Second Amendment or you don’t. You can’t pick and choose what sections of the Constitution you believe in.”
Murphy’s campaign responded that the quote reported by the Daily News did not reflect the entirety of his statement. A full video clip from the event courtesy of the Murphy campaign shows him giving this answer to a question about gun control:
“You can’t say you believe in the Second Amendment except for the 600,000 people that reside in the District of Columbia. For 30 years they couldn’t own weapons. Either you believe in the Second Amendment or you don’t. You can’t pick and choose what sections of the Constitution you believe in. You know I was proud to vote for one handgun a month. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of the assault weapons ban. I will stack my record against everybody.”
On the campaign trail, Murphy has sought to thread the balance between responsible, legal gun ownership and what he calls “reasonable restrictions.”
But Nacheman says Murphy’s warm words for gun control measures during his bid for Attorney General don’t resolve questions from his time in Congress.
Specifically, Nacheman cited Murphy’s co-sponsorship of the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act in 2007. The bill would have forced Pa. – and every state – to honor concealed carry permits from every other state, even gun owners whose Pa. applications for such permits had been rejected.
Presently, the Pa. Attorney General negotiates with other states the reciprocity of gun permits, including concealed carry.
“The Attorney General has a lot of power to do things on this issue,” said Nacheman of concealed carry reciprocity. “Chances are, the next AG will have the chance to weigh in on reciprocity. Possibly even close the Florida loophole.”
The “Florida loophole” refers to Pennsylvania’s current reciprocity arrangement with that state. Pa. recognizes more concealed carry permits from Florida than anywhere else.
Congress has come close to passing similar legislation twice in the past two sessions; the latest iteration of the bill passed the House in November and awaits action in the U.S. Senate. The measure is a top priority of gun rights advocates, but has so far fallen short.
In part, the measure has failed because of the lobbying efforts of hundreds of American Mayors – including 166 from Pa. – who argue that such a bill would diminish the efforts by many cities to reduce gun crime.
Murphy’s campaign notes that 10 of those Mayors have endorsed his campaign, including Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Luke Ravenstahl of Pittsburgh, Ed Pawlowski of Allentown, John Callahan of Bethlehem, Rick Gray of Lancaster, and Tom Leighton of Wilkes-Barre.
The AG Campaign
During a debate at the Pa. Progressive Summit in February, both Murphy and opponent Kathleen Kane expressed support for tighter gun control measures.
“I’m a gun owner, but nowhere in the constitution is there the right to own a AK-47,” Murphy said.
Kane, a former prosecutor from Lackawanna County, agreed.
“We need to ensure and slow up the permitting of guns,” she said.
Both said they would defend Pa. municipalities if they are sued for gun-related ordinances.
But Kane’s campaign criticized Murphy for his support of lifting the DC weapons ban.
“Career prosecutors like Kathleen Kane understand that banning deadly assault weapons everywhere in the U.S. is important for public safety and permissible under the Second Amendment,” said communications director Josh Morrow.
Nacheman acknowledged that Murphy was subject to greater scrutiny than his opponents as a result of the fact that he has a recent record in Congress.
“Kathleen Kane seems to understand the issues,” said Nacheman, citing her comments at the Progressive Summit. “The difference for her is, there is no voting record. With Patrick Murphy, we know what he says but we also know what he’s done.”
Unlike the third Democratic candidate, former Congressman and former Auditor General Don Bailey, Murphy’s time in Congress occurred during an era of extremely politicized gun rights issues.
Bailey was not an announced candidate at the time of the Pa. Progressive forum and has not yet weighed in on these issues.
Murphy’s campaign noted that gun rights advocacy groups weren’t fond of him while he was in Congress, either. He earned a D+ from the National Rifle Association in 2008; an F- from the Gun Owners of America in 2009, and a 9 percent positive rating fro GOA in 2010.
PoliticsPA is currently seeking Murphy’s NRA issue ratings along with the organization’s criteria from the duration of his time in office.
Republican candidate Dave Freed, Cumberland County District Attorney, has cast himself as a staunch supporter of gun rights.
CeaseFirePA’s full letter to Murphy is below: