Florida Republicans Offer Fort Lauderdale Victims "Prayers" While Fighting Gun Control

Florida Republicans Offer Fort Lauderdale Victims "Prayers" While Fighting Gun Control
Photos by MrX via Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore via Flickr

After yesterday's tragic mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Florida's Republican political leaders offered their "thoughts and prayers" to the injured victims and their families. While their comments were certainly warranted, there's a reason their words don't exactly pack much of an emotional punch: That's just what they did after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last June, and they've done almost nothing to help gun-violence victims in the months since.

Perhaps the tone-deafest comments yesterday came from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who repeatedly said in a news conference around 5:30 p.m. that he had "no idea how this could have happened" in Florida. He made that comment despite having endured the Pulse incident, in which 49 LGBT Floridians were killed.

Following that shooting, gun-control advocates threw heaps of criticism at do-nothing politicians who repeatedly say they're "praying" for victims of gun violence while doing zilch to actually stop it. Someone even made a "Thoughts and Prayers" video game last June, wherein players toss thoughts and/or prayers at gun violence victims, only to watch more people die.

Scott apparently hasn't gotten the memo. Asked yesterday what anyone can do, the governor simply said, "The only thing anyone can do right now is pray." Scott has long held an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association and had an "A+" rating when he ran for reelection in 2014. The NRA endorsed Scott that year.

But Scott was far from the only high-profile political leader to offer paltry "thoughts and prayers" to victims yesterday. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart also hopped onto the crocodile-tear bandwagon.

"Praying for the victims and everyone at the #FortLauderdale airport," Rubio tweeted.

"My thoughts and prayers are with all those at @FLLFlyer [the airport], families of the victims and the @BrowardSheriff first responders," Curbelo wrote.

Diaz-Balart even issued a full statement online. “My thoughts are with the victims and their families in the wake of this senseless act of violence," he wrote. "As details continue to emerge, I will work with local, state, and federal authorities as they conduct their investigations. I also want to thank the first responders on the scene for their courage and sacrifice.”

According to gun-control advocate Igor Volsky — the deputy director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund — Rubio, Curbelo, and Diaz-Balart have each taken tens of thousands of dollars from the NRA. Rubio has accepted $14,850 in NRA donations, Diaz-Balart siphoned $29,002, and Curbelo took in a comparatively huge $75,425.

All four politicians have routinely fought efforts to expand gun control or background checks both nationally and in Florida. Rubio, for example, has been a long-standing gun-control opponent, fighting tooth-and-nail against measures to expand criminal background checks for gun owners, closing the famed "gun-show loophole," and banning high-capacity automatic rifle magazines.

Asked about whether background checks ought to be expanded, Rubio said in 2015 that "criminals are going to ignore [the law] because they are criminals," which means new gun laws are a bad idea.

Diaz-Balart, meanwhile, has been a steadfast gun-industry protector. There appear to be few pro-gun bills the representative doesn't like: He's voted to prevent gun manufacturers from being sued, loosen restrictions on interstate gun purchases, and repeal virtually every gun-control law in Washington, D.C., among other measures.

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Curbelo, to his credit, proposed a "no fly, no buy" bill in the U.S. House last year, joining a bipartisan group of representatives to try to prevent people on terror watch lists from obtaining guns. But otherwise, Curbelo has been endorsed by the NRA and has long said he's opposed to restricting access to firearms.

At the state level, Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube told New Times yesterday he's sticking by a bill that will let civilians carry guns into certain portions of Sunshine State airports.

It seems then that "thoughts and prayers" will likely be all Florida gets from many of its major political leaders.

As much as she's been criticized in the past 12 months, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was brave enough to call for some level of gun-law reform in an interview with WPLG Local 10 late yesterday, as well as in a written statement online.

"Sadly, I fear we have witnessed yet another disturbing moment in our nation’s ceaseless struggle with gun violence," she wrote.


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