Sen. Rand Paul easing back in public view after lung surgery

Rand Paul

FILE – In this Wednesday, July 31, 2019, file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington. Paul is easing back into public activities after his recent lung surgery sidelined him for part of the August congressional break. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has started easing back into public activities after his recent lung surgery sidelined him for part of the August congressional break.

The Kentucky Republican gave a speech Tuesday at a chamber of commerce luncheon in southern Kentucky. It was his first public appearance since part of his lung was removed at a Tennessee hospital.

Paul answered questions from the crowd of about 100 people after his address. He talked about his recovery and fielded questions on a range of subjects, including gun laws and health care, during a presentation lasting about 40 minutes. He stood the entire time.

“It is great to be here,” he said. “It is great to be upright and walking around and beginning to heal.”

The senator has said the surgery stemmed from injuries suffered when a neighbor tackled him while he was doing yard work at his Kentucky home in late 2017.

Initially, most of Paul’s August travel plans were canceled due to the operation more than a week ago at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. But his recovery has progressed faster than expected, allowing him to go to Williamsburg for the chamber event on Tuesday.

In a phone interview with The Associated Press on Monday, his first since the surgery, Paul said he’s “actually doing pretty well.”

“And like anybody else who’s used to being active, it’s hard to sit still,” he said. “I’m ready to get back in the mix of things and to start traveling around the state some.”

His schedule will be scaled back considerably from what had been planned before the surgery, with just a handful of appearances planned in the next two weeks.

He’ll return to Washington in September when Congress reconvenes, and by then “I shouldn’t have any limitations,” Paul said.

The surgery became necessary after he had struggled with what turned out to be a lingering infection in the damaged lung, he said.

The senator’s attacker, Rene Boucher, pleaded guilty to assaulting a member of Congress and received a 30-day prison sentence. Federal prosecutors have appealed, saying 21 months would have been appropriate. Paul sued Boucher, and a jury in Bowling Green, Kentucky, awarded the senator more than $580,000 in damages and medical expenses. Boucher has since sold his home next door to the senator.

Paul plunged back into the debate about gun laws in the aftermath of recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

Paul, a strong gun-rights advocate, signaled his willingness to support something along the lines of “red flag” laws that allow guns to be removed from those who may be a danger to themselves and others.

“I’m not opposed to sort of an emergency order for 48 hours and then you get a hearing in a court where you get the full due-process protections,” he said in the interview. “It’s the one thing that could fix a lot of stuff. I think most of these homicidal attackers … are sending off signals to their family and community.”

On Tuesday, Paul warned that “some of these ‘red flag’ laws set off a red flag because they’re streaming through a lot of your information.”

“So let’s say we take the VA roll and we say anybody who’s taking an antidepressant should have their gun rights taken, and you can see that would be horrific, you know, if we just trolled through all the VA rolls and did that,” he said. “It has to be individualized and you have to have your day in court before we take rights away,” he said.

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