Rubio defends approach to ending gun violence during Tallahassee visit

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TALLAHASSEE — Under attack by gun opponents, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio defended his approach Tuesday as aimed at finding “meaningful” changes to improve security.

Rubio’s visit to the Florida Capitol came just days after he was ridiculed by students at Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., as a tool of the National Rifle Association.

“I don’t know anyone who’s in favor of mass shootings,” Rubio said. “So I’m trying to figure out changes to prevent the next one.”

He added, “The only way we can achieve changes is if people who have differences of opinion agree on something that is meaningful. That’s what I’m working on.”

Rubio said the Stop School Violence Act, signed into law last week by President Donald Trump, represents the middle ground in the gun debate.

The law provides funding to train law enforcement and students and staff on campuses to spot and report warning signs that could lead to gun violence. It also provides money for school security and enhances background checks on gun purchases, but doesn’t regulate gun sales.

Rallies in Washington and around the country Saturday focused on banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity gun magazines.

Students from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of last month’s mass slaying, mocked Rubio with signs bearing the figure, $1.05, which they said represented the Republican senator’s financial support from the NRA divided by the number of students in Florida.

Rubio said he still supports increasing the age for gun purchases to 21, a provision of a new Florida law that the NRA is suing in federal court to overturn. But he said that initiative would prove a tougher sell in Congress.

“I’m trying to take these things in the order of the likelihood of our passing them,” Rubio said.

The Stop School Violence measure met that consensus test. Next, he said, could be a proposal he and Florida’s other senator, Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, are sponsoring that would allow law enforcement, the courts and families to take guns away from people who could harm themselves or others.

A similar provision is included in Florida legislation recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to announce soon that he will challenge Nelson this fall.

Rubio said that he’ll campaign for the Republican nominee against Nelson, but, “it’s not an indictment of Bill.

“I couldn’t ask for a better partner from the other party,” Rubio said. “But when it comes to election time, I want my party to win. I clearly want to have more Republicans in the Senate.”

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Yvonne Shaffer