Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) has been one of the major targets of gun control activists. His response to Saturday’s March for Our Lives, however, shows he’s still more concerned about catering to gun owners.
My full statement on today's marches: pic.twitter.com/ZpRNotSbyP
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 24, 2018
Rubio commended those who marched in historic numbers, but emphasized that many people believe banning guns will infringe on their rights and “ultimately will not prevent these tragedies.”
“While protests are a legitimate way of making a point, in our system of government, making a change requires finding common ground with those who hold opposing views,” he said in the statement.
But Rubio’s approach on guns has been the opposite of finding common ground. Since the shooting, he has said he will continue to accept money from the National Rifle Association, claiming the group has “less power” over him than it does other lawmakers. Indeed, his tune hasn’t changed much since the day after the Parkland shooting, when he took to the Senate floor to argue against gun control efforts.
At the march, students from Parkland wore bright orange price tags with the amount of $1.05. This, they had calculated, was what each student in Florida was worth as a fraction of the money Rubio received from the NRA.
Despite his claim in the statement of being willing to find common ground, Rubio has a history of voting against even the most watered down gun control legislation. In 2013, for example, he helped vote down a bill from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would have required background checks for commercial gun sales, but not for gun sales to friends, family, and neighbors.
A new Fox News poll, conducted before the march, shows that Rubio is widely out of step with the public. Respondents significantly prioritized “protecting citizens from gun violence” (53 percent) over “protecting the right of citizens to own guns” (40 percent). On specific gun control measures, support was through the roof. For example, 91 percent favored requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, including for guns purchased at gun shows and through private sales — a measure that would be far more stringent than the Manchin-Toomey bill Rubio opposed. A majority of respondents also favored requiring mental health checks on gun buyers (84 percent), raising the gun purchase age to 21 (72 percent), and banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons (60 percent).
Rubio’s statement was pilloried on Twitter, receiving a 3:1 ratio of replies to likes. Many pointed out that describing the march as being about a “gun ban” demonstrated that he wasn’t actually listening to the arguments being made. Others called out the fact that so long as Rubio maintains a 100 percent rating from the NRA, he’s the one who is making no effort to find common ground.