With calls for gun control increasing after last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., gun rights absolutists are digging in and often going off the rails.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was frequently jeered during a CNN town hall Wednesday night, as was National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch. Then today, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the NRA, gave a speech asserting that gun control advocates want to take away all American freedoms.
At the two-hour forum Wednesday in Sunrise, Fla., not far from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and staff members were killed last week, Rubio, a Republican and staunch gun rights supporter, was confronted by several angry audience members, including a man whose daughter was one of those killed. The audience included several survivors of the attack and families of the victims.
“Your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak,” Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was among the dead, told Rubio. He pressed Rubio to face him and acknowledge that guns caused the attack, and asked the senator to commit to working with him on the problem. . Rubio, already being booed, began his response by saying, “The problems that we're facing here today cannot be solved by gun laws alone.” Guttenberg countered, “Were guns the factor in the hunting of our kids?” Rubio said, “Of course they were,” then cited his support for some gun control measure, such as expanded background checks and the banning of bump stocks, which enable guns to fire faster.
But, recognizing that Guttenberg was asking specifically about the assault weapons ban, enacted under President Bill Clinton but allowed to lapse during the George W. Bush administration, reiterated his opposition to reinstatement of the ban.
"If I believed that that law would have prevented this from happening I would support it, but I want to explain to you why it would not," Rubio said.
“My daughter, running down the hallway, was shot in the back with an assault weapon, the weapon of choice,” Guttenberg countered. “It is too easy to get. It is a weapon of war. The fact that you can’t stand with everybody else in this building and say that, I’m sorry.”
Rubio said the ban as written excluded many models of guns, plus it had numerous loopholes and was easily evaded, and that a better answer was to prevent “deranged” people from getting any gun. Amid jeers for Rubio and cheers for Guttenberg, the latter ended the conversation by saying, “Your answer speaks for itself.”
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) February 22, 2018
Rubio followed up this morning by tweeting that a ban on semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15, the weapon used in the Parkland shooting, is “a position well outside the mainstream,” even though polls indicate a majority of Americans favor such a ban, CNN reports.
Loesch also argued that the answer is to keep mentally ill people from obtaining guns, and she stood fast in opposition to restrictions such as raising the legal age for buying assault weapons from 18 to 21. The man arrested for the Stoneman Douglas school shooting is 19. Diane Wolk Rogers, a history teacher at the school, asked Loesch if his possession of an assault rifle is in keeping with the Second Amendment’s language about the right of “a well-regulated militia” to keep and bear arms. Loesch replied that the phrase applied to anyone who “could operate and service their firearm,” drawing boos and yells from the audience.
Today, LaPierre spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., opening his address by saying gun control advocates “hate the Second Amendment” and “hate individual freedom.”
“In the rush of calls for more government, they’ve revealed their true selves,” he continued. “The elites don’t care, not one whit, about America’s school system and schoolchildren. … Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”
LaPierre further claimed that many liberal politicians want to impose socialism on the U.S. During President Obama’s administration, he said, the Democratic Party became “infested with saboteurs who don’t believe in capitalism” or other individual liberties. Those he named include U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He told the audience, "You should be anxious and you should be frightened" about the possibility of Democrats gaining the presidency and control of Congress.
He also said the FBI has “rogue leadership” and some corrupt agents. Those who resist such leaders, he claimed, “are smeared into submission.” He added, “Socialism is a movement that loves a smear,” and that these smears include calling people racist, misogynist, and more.
He called for armed security as schools and repeated the NRA’s oft-used adage, “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”
Watch the town hall and LaPierre’s address below.