Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says Sen. Marco Rubio's introduction of a bill this morning to make it harder for suspected terrorists to buy guns is "an embarrassment" and smacks of political opportunism.
Rubio -- the Republican incumbent seeking re-election this fall against Murphy's challenge -- today offered what he's named the "Terror Intelligence Improvement Act" in reaction to the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub three months ago.
In a statement through his Senate office, Rubio said the bill is "another step toward fulfilling my promise" to Fred and Maria Wright, whose son, Jerry, was killed in the shooting.
"The Wrights made a simple request: that we improve our laws so it is more difficult for evil people to get ahold of guns," Rubio said. "I told them I would continue working toward consensus on common-sense measures that would help ensure criminals, terrorists and others seeking to take innocent lives are not able to acquire firearms."
He said his legislation "builds on some of the best ideas that have been proposed and improves them in ways that I hope will make a bipartisan solution more likely."
"This bill would achieve everyone’s goal of making it harder for suspected terrorists to buy guns, and do so without violating the due process and Second Amendment rights of innocent, law-abiding Americans," Rubio said.
Among its various provisions, Rubio's bill calls for requiring that the FBI director and the Joint Terrorism Task Force be immediately notified of requests to transfer a firearm to someone who was investigated for terrorism within the last 10 years. It also allows the U.S. Attorney General to delay a firearms' purchase for up to three days and file an emergency court petition if someone previously investigated for terrorism tries to buy a gun.
MORE: Read the bill.
But Murphy, in a campaign statement, was quick to criticize Rubio's introduction of the bill as a "transparent attempt to paper over his relentless opposition to legislation that prevents gun violence."
"After the tragedy in Orlando, Rubio used the deaths of 49 innocent Floridians to run for re-election while voting against every bill that would have helped keep our families safe," said Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter. "He even voted against a bipartisan measure, introduced by a Republican, to prevent people on the No Fly List from purchasing guns.
"For Marco Rubio to introduce this bill now is an embarrassment," Murphy added. "Floridians deserve better than Marco Rubio’s callous political opportunism as he continues to stand side by side with the gun lobby instead of keeping Floridians safe."
On the contents of Rubio's proposal, Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp called it "sham legislation."
"Rubio's bill sets a totally unworkable standard of proof -- probable cause -- essentially requiring law enforcement to prove to a court that a gun-buyer is not just suspected of terrorism, but actually intending to commit an act of terror," Karp said in an email to reporters. "If authorities had that kind of strong evidence against an individual, that person would likely be arrested or detained already. The whole point of the terror watch-list is for potential threats that don't quite rise to that level."
Karp cited a proposal in June from Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins as a more workable option. He said Collins' bill -- which he said Rubio opposed -- would have denied weapons to suspected terrorists "while allowing for a robust appeals process to protect the rights of responsible gun owners."
Earlier this week, Murphy used an endorsement he got from the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence -- an LGBT gun-reform group founded after the Orlando shooting -- as an opportunity to strike a contrast with Rubio's record on gun control.
Photo credit: AP
*This post has been updated with additional comment from Murphy's campaign. We've asked Rubio's campaign if they want to comment further for this story.