Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) responded to the horrific mass school shooting in Parkland on Wednesday by claiming that gun violence prevention efforts were a waste of time.
“If we do something, it should be something that works to stop similar future calamities,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor. “…The struggle up to this point is that most of the proposals that have been offered would not have prevented, not just yesterday’s tragedy, but any of those in recent history.”
He reiterated, “I’m going to say now what I really emphasize at the end. They would not have prevented these.”
Rubio’s argument was that killers are often very determined; very few things work to stop them. “Whether it is a political assassination of one person or the mass killing of many, if one person decides to do it and they are committed to that task, it is a very difficult thing to stop,” he said, before adding, “that does not mean we should not try to prevent as many of them as we can.”
The Florida Republican, who was re-elected in 2016 with the National Rifle Association’s endorsement and received more than $1 million of its funds to back up his candidacy, then proceeded to gainsay suggestions from survivors of the Parkland shooting that legislators revisit laws to restrict the availability of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting.
“You hear in the newspapers that they used a certain kind of gun and therefore, let’s make it harder to get those kind of guns. I don’t have a de facto religious objection to that or some ideological conviction to that, per se,” he said. “There are all kinds of guns that are outlawed and weaponry that’s outlawed and/or special categories. The problem is, we did that once and it did not work for a lot of reasons. There are already millions of these on the street. They last 100 years. You could pass a law that makes it hard to get this kind of gun in a new condition. But you are going to struggle to keep it out of the hands of someone who has decided that’s what they want to use because there are so many of them out there already that would be grandfathered in.”
The NRA line has long been that the 1994 assault weapons ban did not work, so Congress shouldn’t try it again. However, that claim is false: despite the now-expired ban’s loopholes, there was significant evidence that it did reduce homicides.
While there are indeed many such weapons currently in circulation, that doesn’t mean the government can’t address the issue at all, or begin to try and cut back on their numbers. Australia’s gun buyback program, for example, was highly effective, cutting the firearm homicide rate almost in half, something some researchers have cited in the past to support similar reform in the United States.
Rubio also dismissed the value of criminal background checks — which he has repeatedly voted against — by noting that determined criminals sometimes find ways to break laws. “Even if they couldn’t pass the background check, they could buy them the way MS-13 does and other gangs and other street elements do, from the black market,” he warned.
As Rubio himself admitted to Fox News this week, Parkland was ranked “Florida’s safest city” in 2017 and is considered “one of the safest communities in America.” The 19-year-old accused in Wednesday’s shooting, then, might not have been able to obtain a semi-automatic weapon without attracting attention, had he been forced to buy one through illegal channels. But whatever the case, polls and studies have long shown that, despite Rubio’s thoughts on the matter, the majority of gun owners actually support tightened background checks on firearms sales — and that itself should hold some weight.
The point of gun violence prevention measures is not to stop all gun crimes — it is to make committing them more difficult so as to prevent the deaths that can be stopped. In 2016, Rubio appeared to have taken that to heart when he said he had changed his mind and decided to run for a second Senate term following the tragic mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub. Since that time, he has done nothing to reduce gun violence.
Rubio’s speech on the Senate floor Thursday proved that he will likely continue to do nothing moving forward.