Two of the deadliest U.S. mass shootings in recent years have gone down in Florida, which happens to be led by a gun-happy governor (Rick Scott) and represented by a senator (Marco Rubio) with an A+ rating from the NRA. Both politicians are always among the first to offer thoughts and prayers, but many can’t forget how Scott responded to the Orlando nightclub shooting by declaring, “The Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody.” Likewise, Rubio was targeted over the weekend with a Three Billboards-like campaign for his pro-gun stance, and Douglas High School shooting survivors have blasted Rubio and other senators for accepting NRA “blood money” to fuel their campaigns.
Rubio must be feeling the pressure, for he’s now calling for a “task force” to investigate the U.S. epidemic of daily mass shootings. Politico reports that Rubio has (surprisingly) declared himself open to improved background checks, banning bump stocks, and taking weapons away from domestic abusers. He also realizes that people will “roll their eyes at a task force,” which he says is worth pursuing:
“If you’re going to talk about gun violence, you’re going to have to focus on the gun part. But you also have to focus on the violence part. What is the catalyst causing people to do this?”
Rubio’s still sort-of dragging his feet on declaring that he’ll support any gun control legislation, but his support for expanded checks and banning devices that can easily increase a mass shooter’s body count is notable. This is a significant shift for Rubio as a stanch conservative and advocate for gun rights. Notably, he’s also received millions of dollars from the NRA over the years, so the organization’s response will be worth watching.
Indeed, both Rubio and the NRA are on the hot seat. In Miami Beach over the weekend, a plane flew a banner to “shame” Rubio and the NRA, and Douglas shooting survivor Cameron Kasky lectured the senator on cable news with a blistering takedown:
“It’s not our job to tell you, Senator Rubio, how to protect us. The fact that we even have to do this is appalling. Our job is to go to school, learn and not take a bullet. You need to figure this out. That’s why you were unfortunately elected. Your job is to protect us and our blood is on your hands.”
Rubio had little choice but to adjust his stance, although there’s no telling whether it will stick. On Wednesday night, the Republican senator is scheduled to appear on a CNN Town Hall, where he’ll speak with Florida school shooting survivors.