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Reggie Thomas

Reggie Thomas

In Kentucky, where I've lived all my 68 years, most candidates who run for office worship at the Second Amendment altar, beseech the NRA for endorsements and welcome gun lobby lucre as manna from on high.

But a Democratic congressional hopeful vows that if he's elected, he'll sponsor legislation to outlaw military-style weapons like the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle used in the Florida school slaughter.

“I am so tired of being told there is nothing we can do,” said Reggie Thomas of Lexington in an email statement I got today. The cybermissive came with a video.

The statement didn’t pull punches: “Listening to politicians and candidates wring their hands and offer nothing but 'thoughts and prayers' makes me feel sick. If we keep sending weak-kneed people to Congress, nothing will ever happen to attack the problem of gun violence in our schools and our society.

A state senator, Thomas knows the political peril of crossing the gun lobby in the Red State Bluegrass State, where most Democrats sound like Republicans on the so-called social issues, including guns.

A state senator, Thomas knows the political peril of crossing the gun lobby in the Red State Bluegrass State, where most Democrats sound like Republicans on the so-called social issues, including guns.

Trump carried all but Thomas's county—Fayette—in the Sixth District, whose seat the senator seeks. (The only other county the president lost was Jefferson, which encompasses mostly Democratic "Liberal Louisville.")

Thomas is one of a half dozen Democrats with hats in the ring for the May 22 primary. The Sixth District is mostly the Bluegrass region of central Kentucky.

The winning Democrat will almost certainly take on tea party-tilting Republican Rep. Andy Barr, a Trump acolyte. The incumbent should have no problem beating a virtually unknown primary opponent.

Barr got the NRA nod and pocketed $2,750 from gun groups when he ran in 2016. He'll doubtless get the gun lobby endorsement and cash bounty again.

In its 2016 endorsement letter, the NRA gave Barr an "A" grade for his "consistent and proven record on Second Amendment issues in the U.S. House of Representatives." The letter also blessed Barr for signing “a letter to the Obama administration opposing its recent attempt to ban commonly used ammunition for the most popular rifle in America, the AR-15.”

The teenage Florida shooter, who surrendered to law officers shortly after massacring 14 students, a teacher, a football coach and the school’s athletic director, sprayed multiple rounds of high-velocity ammo. He had stuffed his backpack with extra magazines filled with the deadly bullets.

In his email, Thomas said that after the Florida slaughter and a fatal school shooting last month in western Kentucky near my hometown, "we are being told there is nothing we can do. That, my friends, is a lie.

In his statement, he promised that if he gets to Washington, he’ll propose a three-part gun control bill.

First, it would “ban the sale or possession of military-style weapons and high capacity magazines" and carry a provision for the federal government to buy and destroy them.

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Second, Thomas’s proposal would "require universal background checks for the purchase of weapons that include a 48 hour waiting period and a mental health screening.”

Third, his legislation would prohibit “the sale of weapons to violent felons and the mentally ill.”

He said his "plan might not be perfect, but we have to start somewhere, and this is where I take my stand. If these measures were in place, the 19-year old man in Florida would not have had the gun he used to kill 17 people. He would not have been allowed to buy the gun.”

Thomas added, "Australia did something similar to this in 1996 after a mass shooting, and it worked. Australia had 11 mass shootings in the decade before they changed their laws, and they have had zero since. The rates of homicide and suicide have also dropped. It was controversial. The gun lobby fought it, but the people rose up and demanded change."

Thomas quoted then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the adoption of the new laws: 'We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path.'"

Declared Thomas, "My fellow Americans, we have gone down the wrong path, and our children are paying with their lives. We are past the time for just thoughts and prayers; the time has come for action."

Thomas and only two other Democratic primary candidates are viable—Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Amy McGrath of Georgetown, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and combat flier. I get emails from them. I am interested to hear what they say about tougher gun laws.

Anyway, beyond Louisville, many Kentucky Democrats covet NRA endorsements, "A" grades and money and brag when the chief gun group favors them.

Thomas's stand reminded me of JFK's Profiles in Courage.

Thomas isn't afraid of taking less than conservative stands. He is one of organized labor’s strongest supporters in Frankfort, our state capital.

Last year, he was at the forefront of Democratic legislators who stood against a union-busting GOP juggernaut. The legislature's Republican majority passed a "right to work" law and repealed the prevailing wage on state-funded construction projects. Tea party GOP Gov. Matt Bevin lost no time in signing the bills into law.

In the current session, Thomas is helping lead the Democratic fight to stop the Republicans from gutting workers compensation and state pension programs.

In addition, Thomas is for nationwide single-payer health care. He calls universal health care "a moral right."

Berry Craig

Though I live many miles beyond the Sixth District, I chipped in a few dollars to his campaign. After I got his email today, I chipped in a few more. 

Berry Craig

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