Florida Senator Marco Rubio has an “A+“ rating from the National Rifle Association, got over $3 million in campaign support from the powerful gun lobby in the 2016 election, and has a reputation for voting for any gun rights bill that crosses his desk.
Confronted multiple times by students and parents from Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at a CNN town hall Wednesday night, however, Rubio pledged to support a host of new gun control measures (you can read a full transcript here):
Strengthen background checks. “I will support changing our background system so that it includes more information than it includes now and that all states across the country are required or incentivized to report all the information into it,” he said.
Ban bump stocks. “I will support the banning of bump stocks and I know that the President has ordered the Attorney General to do it and if he doesn’t, we should do it by law,” Rubio said. The Department of Justice has been reviewing the legality of bump stocks since early December, but banning them is expected to require legislative action from Congress.
Increase the 18-year-old age limit for rifles. “I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle, and I will support a law that takes that right away,” Rubio said.
Limit magazine stock sizes (maybe). “I traditionally have not supported looking at magazine clip size, and after this and some of the details I learned about it, I’m reconsidering that position,” Rubio said, because it “may save lives in an attack.” Large capacity ammunition magazines, or LCAMs, can hold up to 100 pieces of ammunition and are often used in mass shootings.
Rubio also said he wasn’t in favor of a solution that Donald Trump suggested yesterday, and repeated on Twitter this morning—arming teachers in schools. “I don’t support that,” Rubio said, citing his concerns for his own children. “My kids going to school with teachers armed with weapons is not something that I’m comfortable with.
Rubio was resoundingly criticized by parent and students at the town hall.
“Your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak,” Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jamie, a 14-year old who was killed on Feb. 14, told him, to cheers from the other attendees. When Rubio refused to support banning assault weapons, Guttenberg shook his head in disgust and gave up the mic:
Whether Rubio will follow through on the pledges he made is up for debate.
Among the things the NRA praised Rubio for when they endorsed him in 2016 was the fact that he “opposes the Obama administration’s efforts to ban firearms, ammunition and magazines, as well as efforts to create a so-called ‘universal’ background check system that would criminalize the private transfer of firearms.”
Just a day after the Parkland shooting, Rubio argued publicly that background checks don’t stop dangerous people from getting guns. “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 said then.