June 13, 2018

Rubio hasn't made a decision on limiting gun magazine size

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@alextdaugherty @learyreports

In the week after the nation's deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, Sen. Marco Rubio said he was open to limiting the size of magazines, the spring-loaded devices that feed bullet cartridges into guns.

Four months later, Rubio hasn't decided whether he will back or offer any legislation to limit magazine size, or if he's decided that current law is sufficient. 

"I'm trying not to just find an idea but an idea that can pass," Rubio said Wednesday. "We've talked to a lot of different people involved in the industry on both sides of the debate and we're not prepared to offer any law right now because there's a lot of debate and dispute about what the right number would be and whether it would even make a difference but it's something we'll continue to explore." 

Any potential bill to limit magazine size would need 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to pass.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who has led gun control efforts in Congress since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in his state, said he's "disappointed" that Rubio hasn't taken more public positions against the majority of his party on guns over the past four months, though he credited him for introducing a bill that makes it easier for law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of people who are suspected of being threats to themselves or others. 

"I certainly got a sign from Marco that he was in a little different space than he was prior to the shooting," Murphy said on Tuesday. "I'm disappointed that hasn't (happened). He did introduce red flag legislation."

Rubio's red flag bill, which he co-introduced with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson in March, has four additional cosponsors. 

"That's the one I do believe can pass and we're looking for an opportunity to do it," Rubio said. 

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not included gun-related legislation among his priorities in the U.S. Senate before the 2018 elections. 

"I think his (GOP) leadership has made it clear they don't want to do anything on guns but I'm hopeful that if the moment changes, he might be willing to take a look at some commonsense measures," Murphy said. "When I think of the handful of Republicans we can ultimately work with if we have a bill on the floor, Rubio is on that list."

Similar legislation to Rubio's red flag bill became law in Florida after the Parkland shooting, but the effort in Washington would enact red flag protections in all 50 states.  

"Any Republican is swimming violently upstream if they are trying to move anti-gun violence legislation with this leadership," Murphy said. "I think we've got to live to fight another day and preserve some potential relationships. Hopefully we can work with Rubio."

May 09, 2018

Parkland families urge House to pass bill that lets law enforcement confiscate guns

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@alextdaugherty

The parents and families of victims killed in the Parkland shooting are urging the House of Representatives to pass a law that gives law enforcement the ability to seize firearms, at least temporarily, from individuals who could be a threat to themselves and others. 

The group of families, who have already secured passage of similar legislation in the Florida Legislature and spurred a bill sponsored by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate, are trying to get a nationwide law passed in Congress. 

The House proposal is called the "Jake Laird Act" in honor of an Indiana police officer who was killed in 2004 after responding to a call of a man walking in a neighborhood street with a rifle. Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks and Florida Rep. Ted Detuch, who represents Parkland in Congress, announced a federal version of Indiana's existing "red flag" law on Wednesday. 

"We based it on that because there's a track record of it working," Deutch said. "It passed into law in a Republican state signed into law by a Republican governor, it's clearly bipartisan, its worked and its helped to save lives in Indiana." 

"We must be the last families to suffer the loss of a loved one due to a mass shooting at school," the families wrote in a letter to members of Congress. "We demand more action to keep our schools safe, and legislation like the Jake Laird Act is a critical piece of the puzzle." 

May 04, 2018

Rick Scott was a featured speaker at the 2017 NRA leadership forum. This year, he’s not going.

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via @kirbywtweets

What a difference a year makes.

In 2017, Rick Scott gave a fiery speech at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum in which he appeared to lay the foundation for a 2018 U.S. Senate run.

"We need a larger majority in the U.S. Senate. We need a majority that has the intellectual capacity to comprehend these three words in the Constitution: 'shall not infringe,'" Scott said then, emphasizing each word of that last phrase.

A year later, Scott's Senate campaign is in full swing. And it's time for the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings in Dallas.

The Florida governor won't be there, Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone told the Times. She didn't elaborate.

It's no secret that Scott and the NRA have grown more distant since that 2017 speech. The NRA appeared to remove Scott's picture from its website the same day the governor unveiled a post-Parkland legislative package that included modest gun restrictions.

The gun group is currently suing Scott's administration over the post-Parkland gun bill the governor signed into law in March.

Read more: Here's what's in Scott's gun bill.

And Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer wrote a scathing op-ed in April directed at lawmakers who supported that bill.

The event Scott's missing will feature an array of national conservatives, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas and NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch. The Trump-supporting social media personalities Diamond & Silk will even address the crowd.

Watch Scott's entire 2017 speech here. And dare to dream of a simpler time.

 

April 30, 2018

Dinesh D'Souza mocked Parkland survivors. Now he's speaking at a Florida GOP event.

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@alextdaugherty

When Parkland students traveled to Tallahassee a week after the nation's deadliest high school shooting to demand a ban on assault weapons, lawmakers from both parties listened to them.

Conservative commentator and author Dinesh D'Souza chose to make fun of them.

"Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs," D'Souza tweeted in response to a photo of emotional students when an assault weapons ban failed in the Florida House. "Adults 1, kids 0," he added. 

On Monday the Republican Party of Florida announced that D'Souza, who apologized for his comments, will speak at the 2018 Sunshine Summit in Orlando on June 28 and 29.

D'Souza, a conservative lightning rod who spent eight months in a halfway house for making $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions, said the grief of Parkland students inside the Florida Capitol was staged for media coverage.

"Genuine grief I can empathize with," he tweeted. "But grief organized for the cameras—politically orchestrated grief—strikes me as phony & inauthentic."

The Florida Democratic Party called on the Florida Republican Party to cancel D'Souza's appearance.

"Today, the Republican Party of Florida announced Dinesh D’Souza, Dan Bongino and Kayleigh McEnany as the first three speakers confirmed for the 2018 Sunshine Summit, June 28 and June 29 in Orlando," an email from Florida GOP chairman Blaise Ingoglia said. "We look forward to hearing their message of liberty, opportunity and limited government."

Read more here.

April 23, 2018

The NRA just broke a 15-year fundraising record

Trump NRA

@alextdaugherty

As the student-led March for Our Lives movement captured the nation's attention in the weeks after the Parkland shooting, the other side of the gun control debate enjoyed a banner month of its own.

The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund raised $2.4 million from March 1 to March 31st, the group's first full month of political fundraising since the nation's deadliest high school shooting on Valentine's Day, according to filings submitted to the Federal Elections Commission. The total is $1.5 million more than the organization raised during the same time period in 2017, when it took in $884,000 in donations, and $1.6 million more than it raised in February 2018.

The $2.4 million haul is the most money raised by the NRA's political arm in one month since June 2003, the last month when electronic federal records were readily available. It surpasses the $1.1 million and $1.5 million raised in January and February 2013, the two months after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Most of the donations, $1.9 million of the $2.4 million total, came from small donors who gave less than $200. The NRA doles out money to political campaigns from the victory fund, but most of its spending is on activity that isn't directly linked with a lawmakers' campaign where the group is not bound by state and federal campaign finance limits. For example, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio received only $9,900 in direct contributions from the NRA during his 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, but his campaign benefited from $3.3 million in outside spending from the NRA to help him defeat Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Read more here.

April 20, 2018

Parkland parents say public officials need to be fired soon for failing their children

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@alextdaugherty

Fred Guttenberg, the Parkland parent who confronted Marco Rubio on national television about the senator’s opposition to an assault weapons ban, had a very different conversation with the Florida Republican on Capitol Hill this week.

“Senator, see you tomorrow?” Guttenberg asked.

“I’m around all day, flying out Thursday night,” Rubio replied.

The pair disagree on gun-control policy, but Guttenberg and the Parkland families are united with Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson behind an effort to make the authorities who failed their children accountable.

History suggests they may be successful.

The families of the 17 victims in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School persuaded the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to sign a gun bill over the objections of the National Rifle Association. They successfully got the slow-moving U.S. Senate to fast-track limited school safety legislation into a must-pass spending bill last month.

And the voices that no lawmaker can ignore are pushing for agencies like the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward School Board and FBI to be held responsible, and soon.

“We all think we know, but we need to know with certainty, we need to find out why they made the mistakes and we need to fire people for their mistakes,” Guttenberg said. “Do any of the mistakes cross over to a criminal activity? I don’t know the law, but I do know at a minimum people need to be fired and they need to be fired soon.”

Three Parkland parents are serving on a state commission established by Scott and granted subpoena powers. The commission is set to meet next week. One parent recently met with FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss how the agency can learn from its mistakes. And the parents are confident something will happen, even if it takes a lot longer than they would want.

Read more here.

April 12, 2018

Parkland's congressman wants federal probe into Russian-linked gunmaker

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via @learyreports

Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland in Congress, is asking the Treasury to investigate whether a Florida-based gun maker with Russian ties has violated sanctions.

"Kalashnikov USA is a firearms manufacturer and seller located in my congressional district," the Boca Raton Democrat wrote in a letter to a Treasury official. "Recent media reports have raised questions as to whether Kalashnikov USA, or its parent company RWC Group LLC, may have violated federal sanctions law through illicit business relations with the Russian-owned Kalashnikov Concern JSC ("Kalashnikov Russia").

"According to a statement released by Kalashnikov USA, it relocated to South Florida in 2015. Reports indicate that Kalashnikov USA may have been offered tax incentives as part of Florida Governor Rick Scott's push to lure weapons manufacturers to Florida. According to Kalashnikov USA's own 2015 application for $162,000 in tax incentives, which was approved by Governor Scott's administration, the company planned to assemble its weapons with parts and components imported from Kalashnikov Russia's factory located in Russia.

"As you know, Kalashnikov Russia was sanctioned in 2014 as part of the U.S. response to Vladimir Putin's illegal actions in Ukraine. Given reports of Russia's attempts to illegally fund the National Rifle Association, connections between a US weapons manufacturer and a sanctioned Russian company are even more alarming."

Democrats, including Sen. Bill Nelson, have been angling to make this an issue against Scott, whose administration acknowledges the incentives but says none was given because the contract was terminated.

April 05, 2018

Gun-related town halls are a partisan affair in South Florida (updated)

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@alextdaugherty

A national group that promotes face-to-face interactions between lawmakers and constituents is working with the March for Our Lives organizers to host town hall events on preventing gun violence during the current congressional recess, and no South Florida Republicans are planning to attend. 

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who represents Parkland, held a town hall earlier this week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, will hold a town hall on Saturday in Pembroke Pines, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, will host a town hall tonight in Miami Gardens. 

The three Republicans from Miami-Dade County, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, do not have any town hall events scheduled during the recess. 

A March for Our Lives-affiliated event is being held in Curbelo's district tonight, though Curbelo's office said he was not invited to the event at John A. Ferguson High School. While pro-gun control student activists from Parkland have demanded town hall events during this congressional recess, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and Curbelo have not held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both hold office hours with staff at various locations throughout their districts. 

Curbelo's seat is a target for Democrats in 2018 while Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Diaz-Balart does not have a serious Democratic challenger. 

Neither of Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have held an in-person town hall since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project.  

UPDATE (4/6/18): A student organizer with pro gun-control group Students Demand Action said Curbelo was invited to the town hall event in his district, but he declined citing a scheduling conflict. 

William Breslin, who lives outside of Curbelo's district, said he called Curbelo's official office three times before receiving a response that Curbelo could not attend. Breslin then invited Curbelo's Democratic opponents after the congressman declined the invitation, he said. 

Information on upcoming town halls: 

Town hall with Frederica Wilson and state Rep. Shevrin Jones: 

Thursday, April 5 6:30pm

Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium

3000 NW 199th St. 

Miami Gardens, FL 33056 

Town hall with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: 

Saturday, April 7 2pm 

301 NW 103rd Avenue

Pembroke Pines, FL 33026 

Town Hall for Our Lives West Miami-Dade

Thursday, April 5 7pm

John A. Ferguson High School 

15900 SW 56th St. 

Miami, FL 33185

April 03, 2018

Blue Dog Democrats group accepted NRA money. Now they’re giving it back.

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@alextdaugherty

A political fundraising group that seeks to elect moderate Democrats to the House of Representatives is giving back a donation from the National Rifle Association after the Miami Herald questioned the transaction.

The Blue Dog PAC, which has doled out campaign cash to Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist during the 2018 election cycle, said Tuesday it would return a $4,950 contribution from the National Rifle Association’s political arm in July 2017. The PAC will also not cash a $5,000 check from the National Rifle Association given to the Blue Dogs in January 2018, about two weeks before the nation’s deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Murphy and Crist, who were both in favor of gun-control measures like a ban on assault-style weapons before the Parkland shooting, said they were not aware that the Blue Dogs’ PAC received NRA money during the 2018 election cycle. Murphy and Crist have both received $7,000 in direct campaign contributions from the Blue Dog PAC this election cycle, making it possible that their campaigns received NRA money.

“I am disappointed to learn that the Blue Dogs’ political arm accepted a contribution from the NRA, and I strongly urge them to return the contribution,” Murphy said in an email. “I am proud of the ‘F’ rating I've earned from the NRA. In recent weeks, we have seen historic progress and a major shift in the national conversation about how to prevent senseless gun violence, yet the NRA has continued to put the interests of corporate gun manufacturers above keeping our schools and communities safe.”

Crist echoed Murphy’s call for the PAC to return the NRA money.

“In keeping with the Blue Dog PAC's decision not to accept NRA money, it would be prudent and correct that they return any contributions received this cycle,” Crist said in an email.

Two hours after the Miami Herald asked the Blue Dog PAC to explain why they accepted political contributions from the NRA, an organization that some of its members have publicly denounced, the Blue Dog PAC said it would return the money.

The NRA’s political activity has come under increased scrutiny after the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day. Pro-gun control student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have hammered Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for accepting contributions from the NRA, and organized marches around the world with the intent of changing the nation’s gun laws to include policies like universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Read more here.

March 22, 2018

Two bills supported by Parkland families included in massive spending package

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@alextdaugherty

The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on a massive $1.3 trillion spending package on Thursday and Friday, and the spending bill includes two bills that were a priority for the families of victims of the nation's deadliest high school shooting in Parkland. 

The STOP School Violence Act and Fix NICS Act are both in the package. Both bills received widespread support from both parties though a few Republicans were opposed to the Fix NICS Act, which aims to improve the background check system for guns by penalizing federal agencies that fail to report records, and increases federal funding for reporting domestic violence records.

"Today, we’re moving a little closer to turning the voices of the students marching across the country into action. While we still have so much work to do, I am happy to see some movement on bipartisan legislation I’ve worked on with Senator Rubio to help address gun violence in our country, including the Fix NICS Act and the STOP School Violence Act, which funds programs to help keep our schools safe," Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement. 

The spending bill also stipulates that the Centers for Disease Controls can conduct research on gun violence, a measure pushed by Orlando Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy after the Parkland shooting. A number of Republicans, including Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have backed the idea. Previously, the CDC was not allowed to spend money to research gun violence due to an amendment passed in 1996. 

"We are very happy that by the end of this week there should be close to a billion dollars over the next ten years available so that states can set up these systems to identify potential shooters and stop them before they kill anybody," Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement.