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March 24, 2019

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Candidates square off over terrorism, guns in House race

The Paris attacks and shootings in San Bernardino sparked renewed debates over gun control and terrorism in Congress and in the race for the 4th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy.

Over the last week, Hardy and House Republicans took a number of procedural votes that blocked discussion on legislation that would prevent people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns.

Republicans have raised concerns that the terrorist watch list is too broad and would prevent everyday Americans on the list who have no terrorist connections from buying guns. They’ve also cast Democratic efforts on the issue as a political ploy.

“Using the ‘no-fly’ list as a filter in this way may sound like a good idea in principle, but in practice is significantly flawed,” said Rory McShane, a consultant on Hardy’s reelection campaign. “Multiple reports have revealed the vague and broad-sweeping criteria that is used to end up on a ‘no-fly’ list.”

But Democrats are making a play to use those procedural votes to drive a wedge between Hardy and his constituents, by saying that the congressman and other Republicans are weak on the issue. A radio ad paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, set to start airing today, says that “Congressman Cresent Hardy voted to keep allowing suspected terrorists to buy assault rifles,” urging listeners to call Hardy and “demand he keep us safe.”

The DCCC will also run ads in nine other battleground districts across the country, Huffington Post Politics reported.

That falls in line with Hardy’s Democratic opponents, who are running to oppose him in a four-way Democratic primary, have positioned themselves on the issue. State Sen. Ruben Kihuen recently said that Hardy was "refusing to close an absurd loophole that allows terror suspects to buy guns and explosives,” and last week philanthropist Susie Lee said Hardy and other Republican lawmakers had voted “to protect the ability of individuals who are here and on the terrorist watch list to buy guns.” On Twitter, former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores called a Senate rejection of expanded background checks for gun purchases “shameful."

Former Nevada Assembly Speaker John Oceguera renounced his membership in the National Rifle Association after the San Bernardino shootings. In a letter to the head of the NRA, Oceguera said that there were loopholes that allowed guns to fall into the hands of terrorists, criminals and people with mental illnesses that the NRA opposes closing.

“I cannot continue to be a member while the NRA refuses to back closing these loopholes,” Oceguera said. “Therefore, I resign my membership in the NRA, effective immediately.”

Hardy defends his record on terrorism despite the votes on the no-fly list. He voted in favor of the federal visa waiver overhaul, barring those from Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Sudan — or those who have visited any of those countries in the last five years — from entering the country without a visa. He also voted for a bill that would require new and increased screening measures for Syrian refugees.

Hardy’s campaign says that, while their should be background checks to prevent dangerous criminals from obtaining guns, the ad from the DCCC is misrepresenting a procedural vote and is confusing the issue.

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