The deadly attack that left 49 dead at the gay nightclub Pulse three months ago has taken center stage in the race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for Rubio's seat.
Rubio, a Miami Republican, and Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat, have been fighting for weeks now to prove their initiatives are what's best for victims' families and survivors of the massacre in Orlando. Rubio has a comfortable lead over Murphy in political polls, but has come under heavy attack in the last three months for his actions toward the LGBT community after the tragedy, most recently his appearance
at what activists called an "anti-LGBT" religious conference in Orlando.
On Rubio's side, the incumbent candidate released a letter
this week that he sent to FBI director James Comey asking him to reform the way it processes requests for assistance made by survivors of terrorist attacks.
At a temporary assistance center set up after the Pulse shooting for victims' families and survivors, the FBI operated intake for the center, recording the name of each person who came looking for assistance on forms. Later, the agency would not share
those forms with the City of Orlando because the information was still part of the active investigation. As a result, financial assistance to victims' families and survivors was delayed.
“These cases have fallen into what is essentially a black hole,” Rubio says in the letter.
On the same day, Murphy also released a letter
sent to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen asking that the agency not tax donations given to Pulse victims' families and survivors through the OneOrlando Fund.
"The compassion of a heartbroken nation should not lead to a massive tax bill," Murphy writes. "As of the date of this letter, the OneOrlando website responds to the question of taxation by recommending that victims and their families consult a tax advisor. This should not be necessary."
But where Murphy and Rubio have clashed most regarding the Pulse tragedy is on the issue of gun reform.
Rubio, who's been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, introduced legislation last week that would "make it harder for suspected terrorists to purchase firearms and easier for law enforcement agencies to go after suspected terrorists, while safeguarding law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment and due process rights," according to a statement from his office. The bill requires the FBI to be immediately notified of requests to transfer a firearm to someone who's been previously investigated for terrorism. It also allows the U.S. attorney general to delay a gun purchase for up to three days and file an emergency court petition for that same person.
Murphy, who's been endorsed by the LGBT gun-reform group Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, criticized Rubio's proposal, saying it impedes, not helps, those who want to stop terrorists from purchasing guns.
"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," Murphy says in a statement. "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."
Voters will get to pick whether Rubio, Murphy or another candidate appeals to them most less than two months from today in the Nov. 8 election.