Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., endorsed more gun control legislation after intense questioning from survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday night.
Rubio faced a hostile crowd at the CNN town hall in Sunrise, Fla., with audience members booing frequently and holding up phones with photos of victims. The former 2016 presidential contender was confronted about accepting over $3 million in donations from the National Rifle Association.
“Senator Rubio, will you tell me right now that you won’t accept a single donation from the NRA?” asked Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the Feb. 14 shooting, which left 17 dead.
The question received a standing ovation, but Rubio defended his record, saying that his position on the Second Amendment had been consistent and that people had agreed with that agenda.
As the audience jeered Rubio, Kasky countered, “You could have said ‘no.’” He offered to raise enough money to match the donations given Rubio by the NRA.
Kasky’s question was complemented by a tweet from fellow survivor and newly minted activist David Hogg, who divided the total of Rubio’s NRA donations by the number killed in last week’s shooting.Rubio was the only Republican politician at the town hall; both President Trumpand Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected invitations. He was joined onstage by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., whose district includes Parkland. Questions were asked directly by those affected by the attack: students whose siblings were murdered, parents whose children died and a student who was shot.
Over the course of the evening, Rubio said he supported raising the legal age to buy a rifle to 21, rejected Trump’s suggested plan of arming teachers, and would consider restricting the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines. (Rubio voted ‘no’ on the Manchin-Toomey legislation in 2013 that would have expanded background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.)
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie was among those gunned down at Marjory Stone, started his question to Rubio by labeling the senator’s comments over the previous week “pathetically weak,” a criticism that drew an ovation from the crowd. Rubio responded by saying the 1994 assault weapons ban was a failure.
Another low point for Rubio occurred when he attempted to point out the possibility of banning every semiautomatic rifle in America, a suggestion that caused the audience to break into raucous applause.
“Fair enough,” conceded Rubio, before stating that his colleagues on stage did not support such a measure. Deutch responded by saying that he would ban all “weapons of war” for use by the public and that he would like to sit down with Rubio and work on legislation.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch was on stage later in the evening with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Loesch drew jeers from the audience, including for stating that semiautomatic rifle ownership for people under 21 would help prevent rape. She was also rebutted by Israel, who said she couldn’t stand up for the survivors in attendance unless she stood for fewer weapons.
National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch takes questions with Broward Sheriff Scott Israel during the CNN town hall meeting. (Photo: Michael Laughlin/Pool/Reuters)