Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, facing high school students Wednesday night who survived the Parkland, Florida, shooting, defended his stance on gun rights – while changing the conversation surrounding the issue.
Appearing at a CNN town hall in Florida, Rubio repeatedly made news on the issue of who should have access to firearms by sharing his beliefs on what would have support in the Senate, as well as taking sharp criticism from the audience, which included family members of those killed in the shooting.
While its exact long term consequences may not be known, here’s what Rubio said and did that will make waves in America’s roiling gun debate in the days to come:
1. He says he supports raising the age to buy rifles
“I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle, and I will support a law that takes that right away,” Rubio, a conservative, said at the CNN town hall.
He later added, “I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Currently, US law allows someone who is 18 and older to be able to purchase a rifle or shotgun.
He also said he believes there’s possibly enough votes in the Senate to change the legal age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, also a Republican, said Wednesday he’d back such a proposal.
2. He says he’s open to reconsidering the size of gun magazines
“I have traditionally not supported looking at magazine clip size and after this and some of the details I have learned about it, I am reconsidering that position and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack. … I know there are, for example, handguns that have 17. So we’ll have to get into that debate, but that is something I believe that we can reach a compromise (on) in this country, and that I’m willing to reconsider.”
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Changing the rules around high-capacity magazines is a big deal because it’s not among the top proposals congressional leaders have been highlighting when discussing gun violence.
He was responding to a question about whether lawmakers should address the creation of large capacity magazines that are capable of firing 15-30 rounds of bullets or more.
Just because Rubio is talking about it doesn’t mean it will happen, but it’s a significant door that just cracked open a teeny bit. His comments were already getting attention from some of his colleagues.
“Sen. @marcorubio, thank you for reconsidering your position on large capacity magazines at the CNN Town Hall - I’ve got a bill waiting for you to co-sponsor,” Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, tweeted, with a link to similar legislation
3. He disagreed with President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers
“I don’t support that. … The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something that, quite frankly, I’m comfortable with,” Rubio said.
Rubio’s comments are significant in that he’s breaking with the President, who is also a Republican.
His comments were in response to Trump, earlier Wednesday, floating the idea of arming teachers and school staff after listening at the White House to a series of emotional stories and pleas to enhance school safety.
4. He highlighted a proposal on law enforcement gun restraining orders
“I’ve already announced … a concept called a gun violence restraining order that allows authorities – and it has to be someone in your immediate family, it has to be somebody you live with, it has to be a parent, it has to be an administrator – can go to authorities and allow someone to not just be prevented from purchasing any firearm and allow those to be taken from them – and the person will have due process,” he said. “I support that and I hope they will pass that.”
This law, which is already in place in California and Oregon, allows people to petition a court to remove a person’s access to guns.
5. He was sharply grilled over NRA contributions and responded with ‘People buy into my agenda’
“The positions I hold on these issues of the Second Amendment, I’ve held since the day I entered office in the city of West Miami as an elected official,” Rubio said. “People buy into my agenda, and I do support the Second Amendment.”
This was his response when asked by Cameron Kasky, a junior who survived the Parkland school shooting, whether he would stop accepting money from the National Rifle Association.
Rubio, who faced boos from the crowd, also said he would support laws that would keep guns out of the hands of a “deranged killer.”
6. He showed up
Lastly, Rubio showed up for the CNN town hall knowing there would be a heated debate on guns and he’d likely get booed often. He answered questions directed to him and defended his stances on the gun debate, and many of the event’s participants, even those who seemed frustrated with his answers, thanked him for being there.
Both Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, turned down CNN’s invitations to participate. Trump held a listening session at the White House on Wednesday with high school students and teachers who have been affected by school shootings.
CNN’s Lauren Fox contributed to this report.