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Rand Paul: Obama using Newtown victims as ‘props’

With the fate of gun control legislation in doubt, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) accused President Obama of using the victims of the Newtown elementary school shootings as "props" to advance an agenda that would have done nothing to prevent the massacre.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference with other Senate Republicans to announce a proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in the U.S. Capitol on March 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

"I think gun control is a legitimate issue for our country to debate," he said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday morning. But the Kentucky senator said that looking at the parents of Newtown victims who have spoken in favor of gun control legislation, "I think in some cases the president has used them as props."

"When I see the father and the mothers and them testifying -- and I know they're coming voluntarily, and they want to come and be part of this debate -- but it still saddens me just to see them, and I think that in some cases the president has used them as props. And that disappoints me," he said.

The gun legislation up for a vote today, he suggested, was mostly for show.

"A lot of things in Washington are window dressing, it's a dog and pony show, it's a parade, it's theatrics it's histrionics, all to show people that something bad happened -- which it did something terribly tragic happened," he said. But the response, he argued, wouldn't do anything to prevent Sandy Hook from happening again: "None of the proposals really would have addressed the tragedy."

Instead, he supports letting teachers carry concealed weapons, because mass shooters appeared to be targeting gun-free zones. Otherwise, he said, "we should make sure that the background checks we have are working" and prosecute felons who attempt to buy guns.

Paul emphasized his own empathy for the Newtown victims, describing the political difficulty of opposing gun control measures supported by the family members of slain children.

"I'm someone who is presenting a face to the public, and the face I want to present is that I do care about those kids, and that I understand the grief that they're going through, and that I do care about it." he said. "Politics isn't only about facts, it is about whether you're seen as empathetic, and I do want people to know that I do care about those families and I understand their grief."

Senate leaders reached an agreement late Tuesday to hold up-or-down votes in the coming days on nine proposed changes to gun legislation. The bipartisan proposal to expand gun background checks to cover most commercial gun sales still lacks sufficient support to pass.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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