“We’ll continue to explore and look at those,” Rubio said in a speech on the Senate floor that he used to detail steps Congress should take to curtail gun violence in schools.
In an emotionally charged televised town hall last week, Rubio took a step away from the National Rifle Association and his party’s orthodoxy on age requirements and high-capacity magazines. Since that time, however, he has navigated those issues cautiously, declining to publicly champion specific legislation addressing the matters until greater consensus can be forged.
“These reforms do not enjoy the sort of widespread support in Congress that the other measures I’ve announced do,” Rubio said Thursday. “And in order to successfully pass, these ideas will have to be crafted in a way that actually contribute to greater public safety, but also do not unnecessarily or unfairly infringe on the Second Amendment right of all law abiding adults to protect themselves and their families, to hunt or to participate in recreational shooting.”
The issue of guns continues to be highly polarizing in Congress, raising questions about whether lawmakers will be able to forge the kind of agreement Rubio is looking for on matters that, in recent history, have not been fertile ground for compromise. Even after the deadly shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month sparked a renewed national debate about gun laws, lawmakers have yet to pass any new regulations.
In his Thursday speech, Rubio embraced a series of other, less controversial measures. They include freeing up more federal dollars to beef up school security and create “crisis interventions teams”; creating gun violence restraining orders; pressing school districts to promptly alert law enforcement to dangerous behavior; passing a bipartisan bill to tighten the National Instant Background Check System; and mandating the FBI notify states when a prohibited person tries to buy a gun and fails the requisite background check.
The day after Rubio articulated his shift on guns in last week’s CNN town hall, gun control advocates expressed some hopefulness about his stances, but they also pushed him to go further.
More recently, Rubio has attracted some criticism from those advocating tight restrictions on gun purchases. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D. C.) issued a statement Wednesday saying Rubio has refused her requests to withdraw a bill he sponsored that would allow an individual in the District under 21 to purchase rifles such as the one used in the Parkland shooting.
A Rubio spokeswoman told the Miami Herald that the legislation would “bring D.C. into compliance with federal law.”
The senator took part in a Wednesday meeting on school safety at the White House with President Trump and other lawmakers. Afterward, he said, “We’re beginning the process this week of understanding what we can get done quickly and what’s going to require more time.”
For Rubio, who in the past has backed away from controversial positions he has taken, most notably on immigration, time will tell whether he leans further into the risky stances he took last week or not. The past week has left that as an open question.