Rubio and Florida GOP Offer Vegas "Thoughts and Prayers" While Taking Thousands of Dollars From NRA

Sen. Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr

This past Sunday, a madman armed with high-powered rifles he had turned into automatic weapons with perfectly legal bump-fire stocks massacred 59 people and injured more than 500 in Las Vegas. Congress could easily have prevented the scale of the tragedy by reinstating a federal ban on assault weapons and making bump-fire stocks illegal.

Yet virtually no one expects Congress to even discuss enacting these changes. Why? Because the GOP controls Washington and, as Jimmy Kimmel tearfully said last night, the "NRA has their balls in a money clip."

If you needed further proof, look to South Florida's own batch of NRA-funded legislators. Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart each hopped on Twitter to offer "thoughts and prayers" to the victims. Each has accepted thousands of dollars in donations from the NRA. And none has offered a single hint that they'd support legislation to prevent this kind of bloodbath.

Look at this crap:
Rubio has taken $14,850 in donations from the NRA, the single group overwhelmingly responsible for ensuring psychotic killers such as Stephen Paddock have access to military-grade weaponry to destroy as many lives as possible.
Diaz-Balart has accepted $26,450 from the NRA, which has actively helped stoke the rise of white nationalism and ignored the plight of legal black gun owners like Philando Castile who are killed by police.
Curbelo has accepted $7,450 from the NRA, which this very week is pushing a bill to legalize silencers.

(Miami's other GOP rep, the lame-duck Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has taken $2,000 from the gun lobby but has yet to issue any kind of statement on Las Vegas.)

Would any of these elected Republicans support the extremely basic measures that — at a bare minimum — would have drastically reduced the casualty count from Paddock's crazed attack?

New Times asked spokespeople for all four of those politicians that question. Would they back a new federal ban on assault weapons? And would they back a ban on bump-fire stocks — also called bump stocks — which retail for a few hundred bucks at the local sporting goods store?

Not a single one has responded. Rubio did offer a slightly longer statement to the Miami Herald this morning, rolling out the tired trope that he needs more information and doubts any new regulations could have helped prevent the bloodshed.

"We’ll learn more in the days to come, and if there’s public policy that could have prevented an attack like that, then we most certainly would consider it," Rubio tells the daily. "The problem with many of the recommendations I’ve heard in the past is that, frankly, they would not have prevented any of the attacks... But I think we need to learn more about what happened in Las Vegas."

Regardless of Paddock's motives, Rubio is right that preventing him from harming others in a public space probably would have been impossible. But what about preventing him from taking down hundreds of people from three football fields away while perched on the 32nd floor of a hotel? How many victims could Paddock have picked off using a handgun or even a standard rifle before police got to him?

Don't buy the argument there's nothing more that Rubio, Curbelo, Diaz-Balart, and Ros-Lehtinen could have done. They could have reinstated a federal ban on assault weapons like Uzis, Tec-9s, and AK-47s, which stood from 1994 until the GOP Congress and President Bush let it expire in 2004. They could have banned bump stocks, which serve no legitimate purpose except killing many, many more people in a short period of time.

But then again, these politicians have several thousand reasons — straight from the NRA's bank accounts into their campaign coffers — to do absolutely nothing but offer condolences yet again.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink