During an intense and emotional CNN town hall between Florida lawmakers and the survivors of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a promise: he would support any legislation that would prevent teens from purchasing deadly assault rifles.
“I absolutely believe that in this country, if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle. I will support a law that takes that right away,” Rubio said, speaking to one victim’s father.
Rubio, however, has twice proposed legislation that would allow 18-year-olds in Washington, D.C. to purchase AR-15 style weapons like the one alleged Parkland gunman 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used in the February 14 school shooting.
Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting member of Congress who represents the District of Columbia, has since urged Rubio to reconsider that legislation, in light of his comments following the Parkland shooting.
.@marcorubio's DC gun bill would eliminate DC's ban on assault rifles & allow 18 year olds to purchase them. At the #CNNTownHall, he professed support for raising the age for assault rifle purchases to 21. To maintain his credibility, he must withdraw his DC gun bill. #HandsOffDC
— Eleanor Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) February 26, 2018
“Senator Rubio’s D.C. gun bill would allow a person the same age (19) as the Parkland shooter to buy assault rifles, such as an AR-15, and high-capacity magazines in the nation’s capital,” Norton said in a statement. “Compounding the danger to District residents and visitors, Senator Rubio’s bill would eliminate D.C.’s total ban on guns in school. The Parkland shooting tragically shows the dangers these weapons of war pose to our children. It is long past time that he withdraw his dangerous, anti-home-rule bill.”
Since the District of Columbia does not have true representation in the legislature, it is Congress that has exclusive jurisdiction over the district’s laws and has the authority to overturn laws like the current assault weapons ban enacted by local elected officials.
The Florida senator first introduced the legislation in 2015, just as he announced his presidential bid. According to the Miami Herald, soon after Rubio first proposed the bill, his rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA) was upgraded from a B+ to an A. The NRA subsequently contributed nearly $10,000 to Rubio’s campaign.
Despite the pushback and the Florida senator’s promise to the Parkland victims’ families, Rubio will continue to foster his close financial relationship with the NRA: spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas told the Herald that Rubio’s D.C. gun bill won’t be changed following his comments about the shooting in Parkland.
“If passed, this bill would bring D.C. into compliance with federal law,” Perez-Cubas said in a statement. “If federal law is changed on the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles, then D.C. law would be changed as well.”
Rubio will also continue to accept money from the NRA: after shooting survivor and Douglas student Cameron Kasky confronted the Florida senator during last week’s CNN town hall, asking whether he would continue to accept donations from the gun lobby, Rubio responded by claiming that campaign donations were not the problem.
“People buy into my agenda all the time,” he said.
Since taking office in 2012, Marco Rubio has accepted $3,303,355 in campaign contributions from the NRA.