12122018What's Hot:

Florida’s moment on guns

MIAMI — In America’s national debate over guns, Florida is having a moment.

From the grieving students swarming Tallahassee Wednesday to the public grilling of Sen. Marco Rubio at a CNN forum Wednesday night, Florida — long a proving ground for national gun policy — is again at the center of the storm in the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale.

Story Continued Below

And with President Donald Trump proposing to arm teachers and raise the age limit to buy military-style rifles, those ideas will be put to the test in Florida — in the state legislature and on the campaign trail.

The GOP-led Florida legislature began to acknowledge Wednesday that it’s close to doing what was once unthinkable: consider gun control in an election year.

“Am I surprised? Yeah,” said Republican state Rep. Jamie Grant. “But the world is watching for us to act and we have to.”

And Florida’s swing state politics and personalities have added to the political drama. Gun rights advocate Republican Gov. Rick Scott may challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this year and Rubio, who became a national figure in his bid against Trump for president in 2016, has been panned for his early reactions to the shooting.

Scott, Nelson and Rubio were all invited to CNN’s nationally televised town hall Wednesday night in Broward County, Florida’s most-Democratic and home of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Citing work in Tallahassee, Scott skipped the town hall and didn’t address the news media Wednesday.

Nelson let him have it, scoring easy points against the still-undeclared Scott. “Our governor did not come here, Governor Scott,” Nelson said.

The crowd booed.

And Rubio, the only Republican onstage, was jeered and interrupted for refusing to support an assault-weapons ban and for not refusing to accept money from the NRA, which has given him an A+ rating. Rubio pledged to work with Nelson on shoring up the FBI’s background-check system for gun purchases and advocated for what’s called a “gun-violence restraining order” that’s likely to be part of the legislation state lawmakers vote on Friday.

On the defensive, Rubio unexpectedly said he’s rethinking his support for high-volume magazines and expressed opposition to the proposal to arm teachers and specially trained instructional personnel, a plan popular with the NRA and Republicans in Tallahassee and Washington. Rubio said teachers could get shot by mistake by law enforcement.

The glare of the national spotlight has been inescapable, because of the scope and circumstances of the slaughter — 17 dead, and missed interventions and tips that could have stopped it. Still, despite the polls and public pressure, Republicans in Washington and Tallahassee say they won’t try to ban the sale or possession of military-style weapons.

But earlier in the day, during a White House meeting with mass shooting survivors and advocates, Trump expressed the most interest in the idea of arming teachers, which the father of a murdered child first brought up.

“We’re going to be looking at it very strongly,” Trump said. “If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly. … I really believe if these cowards knew that the school was well guarded. … I think they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with, it could very well solve your problem.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky, journalist Jake tapper and Sen. Marco Rubio are pictured. | AP Photo

Trump also spoke about raising the age for purchasing rifles, but didn’t specify what type. In Florida, Republicans are talking about regulating military-style semiautomatic rifles in the same way they regulate guns, by requiring buyers to be 21 or older and wait three days.

The NRA opposes both proposals, which makes some Republicans nervous as they eye potential GOP primary challenges.

One of the most politically exposed Sunshine State politicians, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, wants to run for governor in a three-way GOP primary and knows that any gun control legislation to come out of his chamber would draw fierce opposition from his allies in gun-rights groups. As a result, Corcoran has said little about the issue and declined an invitation Wednesday from CNN to appear at its town hall.

“If you’re Richard Corcoran, you wait and you don’t say anything so you can embrace Donald Trump and Rick Scott,” said a top Republican ally of the speaker who’s familiar with his thinking. “But the real winner from all of this is Bill Nelson. Let’s face it: voters like the type of gun control he’s talking about and Scott isn’t making any friends.”

As Florida Republicans debate their next move, the question is whether Trump’s statements will give them any cover.

“Honestly, I think our efforts on these issues have made it easier for the president,” said state Sen. Bill Galvano, a Republican who’s leading his chamber’s efforts to pass gun legislation.

This article tagged under:

Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning — in your inbox.

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic