Two weeks after a Florida school shooting that shook the nation and left 17 dead, Sen. Marco Rubio billed a Thursday floor speech as the moment he was going to introduce his “plan” to address gun violence.
But Rubio, R-Fla., did not roll out any new legislation rather listing a series of existing and hypothetical bills that he would support, urging his colleagues to do the same.
“Ultimately, there are things that we can do that have widespread bipartisan support that we can act on that we can pass that will actually make a difference. These are impactful things,” he said.
His plan involves supporting existing bills written by his Senate colleagues, including the FIX NICS bill, which would strengthen the existing background check system and the Stop School Violence Act, written by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to increase security and training at schools and establish school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams.
Rubio also said he plans to propose new bills to create gun violence restraining orders, propose new changes to the federal Promise safety program to prioritize reporting dangerous students to law enforcement and prosecute attempts to purchase guns by people prohibited from doing so, including straw purchases that involve a third party, known as “try and lie.”
He said he was part of a working group, led by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to accomplish the latter goal.
In response to a question about why Rubio hadn’t already introduced any of the measures, given that the shooting was two weeks ago, an aide said he had been spending the last two weeks meeting with investigators, students, teachers and law enforcement, and that he did not want to rush to file or sign onto legislation before then.
An aide noted that Rubio also pushed successfully for $50 million in school safety funding last summer.
Rubio’s office also said Toomey’s office was planning to introduce so-called try and lie legislation next week and that he has been meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to introduce “something next week.” Toomey and Blumenthal’s offices had not yet responded to inquiries about their plans.
The Rubio aide also said he is drafting the bill to make changes to the Promise program now.
But it was not immediately clear why Rubio had not already written and introduced any of the measures he previewed, given that the shooting was on Feb. 14, and his office did not provide a timeframe for when he planned to introduce them.
Rubio participated in a meeting on gun violence with President Donald Trump and a bipartisan slate of House and Senate members Wednesday. During the meeting, he said one of the biggest breakdowns in the existing system — which likely could have caught the Parkland shooter — was that while multiple institutions were aware of him being a potential threat, they weren’t communicating with one another.
During the meeting, Rubio touted the Stop School Violence Act as something that would strengthen lines of communication between, for example, schools and law enforcement. The Rubio aide noted that he has been talking with Hatch about the bill for close to two weeks. Hatch’s office said he will introduce it on Monday.
The junior Florida senator has become much more visible on gun violence since he appeared at a town hall discussion hosted by CNN on Feb. 21, where he fielded questions and criticism from stakeholders including Parkland student activists.
Fred Guttenberg, the grieving parent of a Parkland student killed in the shooting, slammed Rubio and Trump’s response to the shooting as being “pathetically weak” during the town hall. He urged Rubio to acknowledge that guns played a role in the deaths of the 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“The problems that we’re facing here today cannot be solved by gun laws alone,” Rubio said in response to Guttenberg, adding that he does support measures to raise the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21 and to ban bump stocks, the device used in a previous mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.
He went on to say that rather than support measures to curtail the sale of assault weapons, “we instead should make sure that dangerous criminals, people that are deranged cannot buy any gun of any kind.”