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Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting

A former Republican senator is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president after the mass shooting in Orlando, citing her support for gun control.

Former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) called for universal background checks on all gun sales and an assault weapons ban Monday in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“I can’t believe I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, but I am,” said Pressler, who spoke with The Hill on Monday after endorsing Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in a statement issued over the weekend.

“This morning, I woke up and told my wife, ‘Did I really do that?’ ” he said. "But I did.

“If someone had told me 10 years ago I would do this, I wouldn’t have believed them."

Pressler, a moderate Republican who served three terms in the Senate before losing his seat to Democrat Tim Johnson in 1997, said he believes voting for Clinton is the “responsible thing to do.”

He said he feels disenfranchised by Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and modern-day congressional Republicans who have opposed efforts to expand background checks for gun sales.

“We need to go the route of more gun control as a result of Orlando and all the other shootings that have occurred,” Pressler said. “But it’s almost as though Republicans are saying gun control shouldn’t be part of the conversation at all."

But gun control isn’t the only reason why Pressler is ready to join “Republicans for Clinton” — he’s also concerned about Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims.

“This election is starting to sound like the German elections in [the late 1920s],” Pressler said. “This is a very dangerous national conversation we’re slipping into.”

Pressler, a Mormon Sunday school teacher, said he understands all too well the dangers of singling out a particular religious group.

In 1838, Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs ordered Mormons to be killed, which forced many to leave the state before eventually resettling in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Trump makes “Mormons very nervous,” Pressler said.

"Mormons are the only religious group besides the Jews who have been ordered by the government to be extinguished, killed,” he said.

“The worst thing is for Republicans to be silent,” Pressler added. “A lot of Republicans are just saying, ‘I’ll sit it out, I won’t vote.’ Or, ‘I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.’ But if they don’t vote, they are giving more power to dark forces.”

Source: Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting