LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Ex-convicts who avoid future convictions should be allowed to vote and carry firearms, U.S. Senator Rand Paul suggested on Monday at a forum in Louisville.
"I am in favor of letting people get their rights back, the right to vote, the right to.. Second Amendment rights, all your rights to come back," Paul said of non-violent drug offenders following a conversation at the Plymouth Community Renewal Center.
As Paul works to broaden the Republican base to include more African-American voters, he's working to increase the number of African-Americans who are eligible to vote.
"We have people in jail for life for non-violent drug crimes, I think this is a crime in and of itself," Paul told the forum in the largely black Russell Neighborhood in West Louisville.
"The statistics show that this is racially directed," Paul said, adding that young African-American men are disproportionately represented in prison populations and should not suffer lifetime consequences for mistakes in their youth.
"Boys really don't have much of a brain until they're 25," he quipped.
Ahead of his Capitol Hill testimony later this week against mandatory minimum federal drug sentences and greater sentencing discretion by federal judges, Paul heard from two Kentuckians struggling to overcome lifelong repercussions of felony convictions.
"You know that when they do that background check, you're not going to be able to volunteer," lamented Stewart Gardner, who said a previous felony conviction prevents him from further involvement at his daughters' schools. Gardner is founder of the "2 NOT 1" organization which encourages fathers to be involved in their children's lives.
"Make a way for convicted felons and addicts that are trying to do better in their life," said Shaunia McCain, a convicted felon from Paducah. "... that want better and can better themselves with help."
Paul advocated stimulating business investment in poor neighborhoods by removing the federal and state tax burden from companies who move there. He also argued against property owners being exploited by those who buy then inflate tax liens against them, sometimes resulting in the loss of the property.
Though Kentucky's junior senator is pushing for House Republicans to use the threat of defunding the Affordable Care Act in upcoming budget negotiations, he said Republicans can stand up for their principles without brinksmanship and deadline deals.
"It's a dumb idea to shut down the government," Paul said.