WASHINGTON ― Following the deadly school shooting in his home state, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) last week expressed support for raising the minimum age for certain gun purchases from 18 to 21, yet he is not backing away from a bill he proposed that would reduce restrictions on young people obtaining such weapons in the nation’s capital.
“I absolutely believe that in this country, if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle,” he said at a CNN town hall last week, where he faced questions from students and parents affected by the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “I will support a law that takes that right away.”
His new position appears to conflict with a bill he introduced in 2015 and 2017 that would overturn strict gun measures enacted by Washington officials ― including restrictions on firearm purchases by residents between the ages of 18 and 21.
After Rubio, a frequent beneficiary of support from the National Rifle Association, first unveiled the legislation in 2015, the lobby group raised his rating from a B+ to an A.
Rubio’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from HuffPost. A spokeswoman told the McClatchy news outlet on Tuesday that the senator stands by the bill because it “would bring D.C. into compliance with federal law.”
The spokeswoman added: “If federal law is changed on the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles, then D.C. law would be changed as well.”
Congress has wide authority to oversee local laws in the nation’s capital.
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the D.C. representative in Congress who has no voting power, has repeatedly called on Rubio to pull the bill, citing his statement at the town hall.
“Senator Rubio’s D.C. gun bill would allow a person the same age (19) as the Parkland shooter to buy assault rifles, such as an AR-15, and high-capacity magazines in the nation’s capital,” Norton said in a statement on Tuesday. “Compounding the danger to District residents and visitors, Senator Rubio’s bill would eliminate D.C.’s total ban on guns in school. The Parkland shooting tragically shows the dangers these weapons of war pose to our children. It is long past time that he withdraw his dangerous, anti-home-rule bill.”
The NRA said that it opposes raising the minimum age for purchasing assault-style weapons, a proposal that appears to be gaining traction among lawmakers in Congress and in the Florida Legislature in response to the shooting.