Policy

D.C. Lawmakers, Florida Congressman Decry Rubio Gun Proposal

Florida senator’s bill would scrap local D.C. gun laws and align them with federal baseline

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has declined to pull a bill that scraps Washington, D.C.’s local gun laws and aligns them with the less-regulatory federal baseline laws. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Local lawmakers in the District of Columbia have taken aim at Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for proposing legislation to overturn local measures restricting gun sales in Washington that he appeared to support for his constituents back home.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton of Washington, D.C., and Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida called on Rubio to “immediately” withdraw the bill he proposed in 2015 and 2017.

“I absolutely believe that in this country, if you are 18 years of age you should not be able to buy a rifle. I will support a law that takes that right away,” the Florida Republican said in February during a town hall event with students, parents, and alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people last month.

“He said that on a stage, next to me, in an arena full of thousands of residents in the Parkland area,” Deutch said Tuesday on a joint press call with Holmes-Norton and Bowser in which he hammered the senator for “hypocrisy.”

Deutch, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 21st District, which includes Parkland.

While federal gun laws currently allow anyone over the age of 18 who passes a background check to legally purchase a gun, local D.C. lawmakers have imposed an assault weapons ban and measures that prevent young adults in the city from purchasing guns.

Rubio’s bill, the Second Amendment Enforcement Act, would supersede those local restrictions because Congress wields exclusive control over local laws.

Though the mayor has been outspoken on the threat Rubio’s bill poses to D.C.’s extensive gun regulations, the Florida senator has so far recruited no co-sponsors for it. It is highly unlikely it would pass in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority and chamber rules require a 60-vote majority to pass most legislation.

Rubio will not withdraw the bill, a spokeswoman said Tuesday, citing the senator’s desire to align the district’s gun regulations with federal law.

“Senator Rubio’s bill will not be withdrawn,” the spokeswoman said. “The District of Columbia is a federal jurisdiction and this bill simply aligns D.C. firearms regulations with federal law. If federal law is changed, it would apply to D.C. as well.”

In 2014, a new female employee in Rubio’s D.C. office wanted to bring two legally acquired handguns to D.C. for protection following a shooting near her building.

The employee felt the process to bring the guns to D.C., under D.C. law, was overly burdensome. She took time off work to complete it. The episode led Rubio to introduce the Second Amendment Enforcement Act the following year to bring D.C. gun laws in line with the federal baseline.

The National Rifle Association bumped his grade from B-plus to an A.

Rubio has consistently expressed the belief that stricter gun laws will not prevent criminals from acquiring guns and committing violence — including the Parkland gunman.

“If someone’s decided, ‘I’m going to commit this crime,’ they’ll find a way to get the gun to do it,” he told reporters a day after the Parkland shooting. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a law that makes it harder. It just means, understand, to be honest, it isn’t going to stop this from happening.”

Rubio supports measures to bolster the federal background check system, criminally charge people who try to buy guns when they do not qualify, and impose so-called gun violence restraining orders, measures which have all garnered degrees of bipartisan support.

Bowser said Rubio’s bill scrapping D.C.’s local gun laws represents an “encroachment” on the jurisdiction of locally elected leaders.

“You can imagine how not only insulted we are,” Bowser said on the call Tuesday, “but how concerned we are that an elected representative of the state of Florida impacts Washington, D.C.”

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