Florida Senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio was first out of the gate to criticize President Obama’s violence prevention plan on Wednesday, issuing a statement claiming that “Guns are not the problem; criminals with evil in their hearts and mentally ill people prone to violence are.”
In the hours that followed, Rubio appeared on a slate of conservative TV and radio shows to articulate his opposition to any efforts to limit access to assault weapons or high-capacity magazine, arguing that the policies “don’t work” and wouldn’t have prevented massacres like the shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Rubio argued that any gun restrictions would be ignored by criminals.”The only people who follow the law are people who follow the law,” Rubio told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “Criminals don’t care what the law is. They ignore the law. That’s why they are criminals.” He went further, suggesting that Obama was exploiting the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut to infringe on the Constitutional rights of law abiding citizens:
RUBIO: I actually think the president just doesn’t have the guts to admit it, he is not a believer in the Second Amendment although he states that he is. And that’s what I’m saying. The Second Amendment is in the Constitution. I didn’t write the Constitution. Neither did you, neither did he. If he doesn’t want the Second Amendment to be in the Constitution or he wants to reform the Second Amendment, then have the guts to admit that.
“I have questions whether or not he’s truly committed to the Second Amendment,” Rubio said during an interview with Laura Ingraham, adding that the administration is testing “how they can infringe on it.
But the Constitution permits a broad range of gun safety measures. As conservative Justice Antonin Scalia concluded in Heller v. DC, the government can restrict ownership of “dangerous and unusual” weapons and that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”