Marco Rubio, Rick Scott fail to support bipartisan gun safety bill

Second Amendment

If U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott can’t bring themselves to support even a watered-down, bipartisan first step toward easing gun violence amid a contagion of shootings nationwide, it’s time for Florida voters to find senators who will.

Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in 2018, Rubio boasted of co-sponsoring a bill meant to dedicate federal money “to incentivize states to give law enforcement the authority to prevent individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others the ability to purchase or possess firearms, while still providing due process protections.”

But it’s easier for him to have staff dash out a press release than to make a sustained effort to address this issue in good conscience, even an issue as urgent and vital to American families as this one. Of course nothing came of his bill, as Rubio, Scott and the Republican Party have worked far harder to satisfy their NRA contributors.

Guns and Congress: Gun rights v. gun control: Where do Florida lawmakers stand?

Here was Rubio this week, in the wake of the Uvalde elementary school massacre, presented with a bipartisan bill to strengthen background checks, incentivize states to implement “red flag” laws, make it harder for convicted domestic abusers to obtain weapons, invest in mental health services for children and families and toughen penalties for evading licensing requirements. Our senior senator responded with a tweet that he couldn’t support this bill because he wasn’t given enough time to read it.

Likewise, Scott, who when Florida governor signed a state law to keep guns out of the hands of people who courts deem dangerous, this week proclaimed the federal bill that has a similar intent unworthy of his support. He accused the bill’s bipartisan sponsors of “secret backroom dealings,” and like Rubio, complained that members weren’t given enough time to read the bill. Please.

More: Editorial: Sen. Rick Scott, get to work on gun reform

It’s not that Scott and Rubio have taken no action on the issue. Why, just this past February, they introduced a resolution to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland school shooting. Well that ought to comfort their parents, who this week were still waiting for the sentencing hearing for their children’s  murderer, knowing that four years later, Congress had yet to do anything that might prevent another Sandy Hook, Columbine, Parkland or Uvalde from devastating more children and families.

The bill that ultimately won Congressional approval and awaits President Biden’s signature makes vast concessions to win over those who for far too long have stood in the way of any gun regulation whatsoever. The bill doesn’t raise the age limit from 18 to 21, though it would tighten background check requirements for that age group. And sadly, it doesn’t ban from public sale weapons meant for battlefields, the kind that have devastated so many classrooms.

But it’s a step, the most significant step forward in Congress in the past 30 years. And it’s telling that, as divided as our government has been, 14 Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues to advance the legislation this week.

Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime in the Parkland shooting, said in an MSNBC appearance that activism on both sides of the aisle finally appeared to be changing minds. “Maybe they also realized,” he said of longtime Republican opponents of gun regulation who supported the bill, “that the idea of reducing gun violence isn’t an affront to the Second Amendment; that the idea of saving lives isn’t going to hurt legal, lawful gun owners; and that the idea of seeing children with their heads blown to smithereens is not something we should feel is OK to live with anymore.” 

In the face of that power of good breaking through after decades of intransigence, all that was left to Rubio and Scott was posturing. So sad, that in a state of 21 million people, these are the best statesmen we have to offer. We need them to do better.

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