Indri Schaelicke | United States
In January of 2016, speaking at a New Hampshire campaign event, Republican Presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio reaffirmed his pro-gun right stance. “I believe that every single American has a Constitution—and therefore God-given right—to defend themselves and their families,” Rubio said. The statements he made at this rally were clearly politically motivated- he was attempting to build a base of voters in a state with a strong commitment to gun rights, especially among Republicans. And it sort of worked- he received 10% of the vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary and came away with 2 delegate votes.
Yet just a few years later, it seems like Rubio has forgotten those closely held principles. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Marco Rubio is planning to introduce a red flag gun bill. This law, if passed, would encourage states to pass and implement laws that allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from their owners if they show any signs of aggression. The process begins when law enforcement, concerned family and friends, or mental health professionals petition a court for a court-ordered confiscation of guns from the person in question’s home. A troubling problem with red flag gun confiscation laws, however, is that the citizen whose right to defend themselves by owning firearms is being stripped away is not given an opportunity to represent themselves in court and prevent the confiscation.
How could a politician go from believing every person has the right to protect themselves and the people they love, to leaving this right up to the whims of a judicial system that can be easily biased into stripping this right from a person? Let’s examine what has caused Rubio to shed his principles with such ease.
The Parkland School Shooting
On February 14, 2018, gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and killed seventeen students and staff members and injured a further seventeen others. This school shooting sparked a national debate on America’s gun laws and the constitutionally protected right of the people to keep and bear arms. The survivors of the shooting were understandably severely anti-gun after the events they had witnessed, and many of them started a movement known as the March for Our Lives. This movement organized marches and rallies across the US, and demanded tougher restrictions on the ownership of guns, with some even calling for the complete banning of assault rifles.
Being one of two senators from the state of Florida, Marco Rubio was forced to make a statement about the shooting and demonstrate to his constituents that he would do what he could to prevent another tragedy like this from happening. At a widely seen CNN Town Hall event, Rubio spoke with survivors of the shooting and came under fire from outraged parents of fallen students and shooting survivors. Question after question about what he would do to prevent similar shootings from happening came at Rubio, who did his best to stay true to his principles in the face of a hostile crowd. However, he soon cracked, and after the event announced that he would be introducing a Gun Violence Restraining Order Bill, also known as a Red Flag bill, in the US Senate. During the town hall, Rubio also stated support for four different proposals that would aim to limit the risk that a deranged individual could harm so many defenseless children.
These proposals include strengthening background checks, banning bump stocks, increasing the age limit to buy rifles from 18, and potentially limiting magazine sizes. On the issue of the legal age to purchase rifles, Rubio said: “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”. In just two short years, Marco Rubio has gone from believing that everyone has the right to protect themselves to supporting “a law that will take that right away”. He also indicated that he is reconsidering his stance on limiting magazine sizes. “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.
This strategic positioning on the issues suggests that Senator Rubio is attempting to put himself in good standing with his constituents to ensure his reelection bid is successful. Rubio’s next run will come in 2022, just three years away. The survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, as well as thousands of other teens concerned with the safety of their schools and communities, will range from 18 to 22. With almost 70% of teens surveyed in a SurveyMonkey poll saying that a federal ban on assault weapons would make the US a safer place, it is clear that the newest members of Rubio’s electorate are in favor of gun control. The Senator is ensuring that he can count on GenZ votes in his 2022 election run. If he does not secure this demographic’s support he will find it incredibly difficult to win reelection.
Rubio is walking an incredibly thin line. He must maintain his base of Republican support by not compromising his beliefs on gun rights, while also attracting more moderate voters who are more likely to support some sort of gun control measure. Florida is infamous for being a swing state in Presidential elections, as 27% of their electorate is not party affiliated. This massive demographic has the potential to decide close races, and Rubio must win their support by becoming more moderate. His red flag bill will allow him to achieve both of these goals, as both groups are likely to agree with the necessity of this law. It looks like yet another politician has decided it is worth shedding their principles to ensure reelection.
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