Rubio Shows How to Take the Lead on the Guns Debate

Yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced his intention to address gun violence and school shootings. Sarah Rumpf covered it here and included a rough partial transcript, provided by his Senate office. In his speech, Rubio discussed how systems failed to stop Nikolas Cruz and offered ideas on how to prevent future mass shootings.

First, though, Rubio pointed out how unproductive it is to “hold hostage a piece of legislation that would work and that we all support, because it doesn’t have everything you want.” The refusal by all sides in American politics — from the politicians to the constituents — to accept any sort of compromise is highly detrimental, and it ignores that Congress is designed with compromise in mind, particularly in the Senate, where legislation (at least currently) requires more than a simple majority to pass.

Rubio also emphasized his efforts by highlighting his meetings with all sorts of people, from Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and teachers and school board administrators, to experts in firearm sales and federally licensed firearm dealers, to federal law enforcement. Rubio has been criticized by both sides for his actions since the Douglas High School shooting, with much of the focus regarding the town hall. The town hall attendees booed him, blamed him, and furiously peppered him with angry questions; the Right criticized his decision to go at all as poor judgment, as well as his openness to debate gun safety measures at all. But not only does this ignore the fact that Rubio would have been criticized as “hiding” if he hadn’t attended, but it also ignores that Rubio is a United States Senator for the entire state of Florida, not just a Senator for Florida Republicans. He cannot and should not hide from his constituents. He made an effort to meet them face-to-face and to listen to them, to try to persuade them, and to try to inform them. He should be commended for knowing it would be difficult and going anyway.

Rubio then announced the following actions he planned to support:

  • Pass the Stop School Violence Act, to strengthen security infrastructure, provide school training, and create school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams (which would provide coordination between law enforcement, state agencies, and school districts). Cruz was transferred between schools, and police were called to his house 45 times in recent years, but he was never arrested. There was no much-needed coordination among the appropriate organizations. It’s possible such action may have prevented Cruz from carrying out his mass shooting.
  • Implement gun violence restraining orders (GVRO), with an emphasis that “the due process in such a situation would be on the front end, not on the back end.”
  • Reverse federal law that seemingly discourages school systems from reporting dangerous or violent students to law enforcement. This, too, would have had a real effect, as Cruz would not have been able to slip through law enforcement cracks. Rubio intends to propose changes that would recognize the importance of reporting students threatening violence and encourage doing so.
  • Strengthen background checks, “because a background check is only as good as the information that is on it, and this deranged killer was able to buy guns on ten separate occasions because he would have passed every and every any background check because none of the stuff that was known about him was reported to that system.”
  • Legislation requiring the FBI to notify states when an individual prohibited from purchasing a firearm fails a background check in an attempt to purchase one as well as a new law to provide more resources for prosecuting straw purchases.

Again, these are neither perfect nor flawless proposals. But give Rubio credit for joining the discussion and for attempting to identify real, effective solutions, rather than doing anything just to do something or allowing gun control advocates to drive the debate. Other conservatives should join him to carefully examine each of his proposals — or to offer their own — to ensure we enact effective reforms that keep guns out of the hands of those who would harm innocents, but that also don’t infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. We should be prepared to lead this discussion — or to lose the fight entirely upon the Democrats’ next, inevitable return to power.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.