As Democrats called Thursday for restricting access to weapons after the worst high school shooting in American history, two South Florida Republicans, Senator Marco Rubio, who received millions of dollars in political help from the National Rifle Association, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the single largest recipient of direct NRA campaign cash among Floridians in the House of Representatives since 1998, said gun control legislation won’t stop mass shootings.
Rubio’s voice trembled with emotion during a 30-minute interview with the Miami Herald in which he argued that legislation to limit access to semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 or laws to make it tougher to purchase firearms legally wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“It is unfair to argue that there’s nothing we can do other than be more careful,” Rubio said. “It’s also unfair to argue that the reason why people are suffering today is because there’s some great law out there that if we had just passed it, it wouldn’t have happened. It’s not accurate. Both of those things are wrong.”
Rubio, who earned an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association during his 2016 reelection campaign and who ranks among the top 20 members of Congress in money received — $3.3 million — from gun-rights interest groups in either direct or indirect campaign help, said Wednesday’s shooting touched on multiple areas of public policy, including firearms, mental health funding, school safety and law enforcement oversight. A bill that affects one area of public policy doesn’t prevent the next mass shooter from successfully plotting an attack, Rubio said.
“I’m not saying that these can’t be balanced out, but these public policy issues are more complex that what is often reported,” Rubio said. “There’s a rationale beyond just the NRA why some of these things meet resistance.”
Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, a former Marine who used a version of the AR-15 when he served in the Iraq War, said Rubio’s response to the shooting was no different than anything else he’s heard from Republicans.
“When you have people like Marco Rubio, who has had several killings in his state by people using these types of weapons, and he consistently asks for prayers and does nothing, its symptomatic of what is going on with the Republican Party,” Gallego said. “Marco Rubio and the Republican Party are in the pockets of the NRA and they’ll never do anything. They’ll just talk a game and think everyone forgets.”
Rubio said groups like the NRA support him and run crucial television ads during heated campaigns because he supports gun rights.
“I think there’s two reasons why they would do it,” Rubio said. “One, they didn’t like my opponent, and two I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment and I remain a supporter of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is not the cause of this. The cause of this is individuals who happen to abuse that liberty and that constitutional right for the purposes of conducting these atrocities.”
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