In March 2018, then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a piece of legislation that, among other things, raised the age at which individuals could legally buy firearms in the state to 21.
“If you look at the federal government, nothing seems to have happened there,” Scott said in signing the measure, which was prompted by the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, just weeks prior. “You go elect people, you expect them to represent you, get things done.”
Prior to the new law, it was illegal in Florida for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a handgun. Following the law’s passage, it became illegal for an individual in Florida to buy any firearm – including long guns like the AR-15 – if they were younger than 21.
Scott’s statement is worth remembering now, as the country seeks to respond to the murder of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Scott is now a US Senator representing Florida after defeating Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018. On Monday, he had an exchange with CNN’s Manu Raju over whether or not the federal government should do what he did in Florida: Raise the age to buy long guns to 21.
Here’s the back and forth:
Raju: What about raising the age at the federal level? I mean, to 21.
Scott: I think that all this stuff ought to be done at the state level.
Raju: What’s wrong with doing it federally?
Scott: Because you can change the laws easier at the state level.
Which is, well, interesting? Because back in 2018, Scott lambasted the federal government for its inaction on guns. And now he is saying that he opposes raising the minimum age to buy long guns to 21 because that sort of stuff is better left at the state level because “you can change the laws easier at the state level.”
Well, Scott’s political circumstances.
Back in March 2018, Scott was dealing with two realities:
1) As governor, 17 people had been killed in a mass shooting at a high school in his state.
2) He was on the cusp of announcing his bid for the Senate. (Scott officially entered the Senate race in early April 2018.)
Those twin facts meant that a) Scott needed to act on guns and b) he needed to use the issue as part of the broader argument that he was going to make that people like Nelson were part of a Washington culture that simply didn’t get things done for the people they were supposed to represent. Inherent in that argument was that Scott, as a two-term governor, got stuff done.
“I never planned to fit in, and I won’t fit in in Washington, either,” Scott said in a video announcing his Senate candidacy. “It’s time to shake that place up. We don’t need another politician in Washington. It’s full of politicians, and that’s why it’s broken.”
Fast forward to today. Scott’s situation has changed considerably. He is now a senator. And not just one who runs the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm but also one who is quite clearly interested in running for president as soon as 2024.
Getting things done in Washington – particularly on an issue like gun control – is no longer such a big priority for Scott. Instead, he wants to do what he can to play to the Republican base nationally, which remains skeptical of the necessity for further restrictions on gun rights.
Need more proof of Scott’s change of heart? “I’ll listen, but I’m not taking away guns from law-abiding Americans,” Scott said Monday when asked about the possibility of supporting a bipartisan Senate compromise on guns.