Marco Rubio, Who Opposed All Gun Control as Senator, Threatens Comeback After Orlando

For months, Marco Rubio has resisted increasingly desperate calls from colleagues to throw his name back into the ring for the bruising race for his seat in the U.S. Senate. But Rubio hinted yesterday that he might just be softening that stance because of the massacre in Orlando.

"It really gives you pause to think a little bit about, you know, your service to your country and where you can be most useful to your country," Rubio told radio host Hugh Hewitt yesterday. "I haven’t thought about it from a political perspective, but it most certainly has impacted my thinking in general about a lot of things."

Does that mean Rubio will run again for Senate? Maybe.

"If he feels he can prevent something like that from ever occurring again, he's going to reconsider it," one Republican insider told Politico this morning

Preventing a mass shooting like this one — now that's an interesting idea. There's zero political consensus, of course, on what might have prevented Omar Mateen from unleashing his hatred inside a gay nightclub early Sunday morning. Donald Trump insists the answer lies in tougher immigration laws, although Mateen was born in New York just a few miles from Trump's own birthplace. 

Democrats, though, say the fix lies in access to semiautomatic rifles like the one Mateen used to mow down more than 100 people inside Pulse nightclub. Democratic senators are already pushing for changes in access to those weapons, with proposals ranging from a renewal of the 1994 assault rifle ban that lapsed under President George W. Bush to a simpler fix — preventing suspected terrorists from being able to buy such weapons. 

And they wasted no time in savaging Rubio for his own record on those issues. As a senator, Harry Reid pointed out this morning, Rubio opposed every meaningful piece of gun reform that came to the floor.

Following the Sandy Hook massacre of schoolchildren — in which the shooter used a weapon similar to Mateen's semiautomatic rifle — Rubio joined his Republican colleagues in voting down a renewed assault weapons ban and a separate measure to expand background checks.   

In December, Rubio also voted against a measure that would prevent those on terror watch lists from buying weapons. 

Why? At the time, Rubio claimed that the measure would prevent "over 700,000 Americans on some watch list or another" from buying guns. Politifact checked that one out and rated it Mostly False, because at most, 10,000 people are on federal watch lists and most experts agree the vast majority belong there. 

All of which begs the question: If Rubio is so moved by the Orlando killings to rerun for Senate to "prevent" such a tragedy, how would he do so?

To Rubio's credit, he has opposed Trump's mass bans on Muslim immigration. But he has also steadfastly stood in the way of any kind of assault weapon ban. So how exactly would he propose to stop the next Omar Mateen from killing indiscriminately?
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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