We hold this truth to be self-evident: Political impotence in the wake of gun violence is a pre-existing condition.
We all know what happens after a mass shooting — thoughts ‘n’ prayers, TV footage of traumatized kids, it’s “too soon” to do anything — so this time let’s try something else. Let’s tell the tale through the prism of one hapless politician. Let’s make him a metaphor for our surrender to routine slaughter.
And since this week’s killing field is Florida, Marco Rubio will do just fine. Let’s track him chronologically and keep it simple.
February, 2010: Senate candidate Rubio declares on his campaign website that “the Second Amendment is a cornerstone of our democracy … The right of citizens to defend themselves by bearing arms is a fundamental human right that should be protected.”
August, 2010: Senate candidate Rubio tells the Christian Coalition that he opposes any restrictions on the right to bear arms. That same month, the National Rifle Association views Rubio as a promising ally, and scores him a B+.
July 2012: In the wake of a mass shooting in Colorado, triggered by a guy with an AR-15 assault weapon, Senator Rubio tweets, “Praying that God provides comfort to the victims & families.”
February, 2013: Senator Rubio, addressing the elementary school slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut, says, “We were all heart broken. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence.” However, “undermining” gun rights “is not the way to do it.”
April, 2013: Senator Rubio votes no on a bill that sought to ban high-capacity magazines with more than 10 bullets. That same month, he says that “all Americans have a Second Amendment right to buy a firearm, to possess one for both self-defense and for sport. And we should be very careful about anything that infringes on that.”
More from April 2013: Rubio votes no on a bipartisan bill that would’ve expanded background checks on gun purchases, because, in his words, “the right to bear arms is a unique and fundamental aspect of American liberty.” And Rubio votes no on a bill that would’ve banned assault weapons like the AR-15.
October 2015: In the wake of a mass shooting in Oregon, Rubio tweets that he’s “praying for all those affected by the horrific violence.”
December 2015: Rubio votes no on a bill that would’ve barred people on the FBI’s Terror Watch List from legally buying guns. He says, “You’re talking about denying people a Second Amendment, a constitutional right” — by his estimate, 700,000 people. (The actual number on the FBI list: 10,000.)
January 2016: Presidential candidate Rubio, armed with an A rating from the NRA, says that “the Second Amendment is not an ‘option.’ It is not a ‘suggestion.’ It is a constitutional right of every American to be able to protect themselves and their families.” That same month, in New Hampshire, he visits a gun store, and holds a rally at a firearms manufacturing company. He is gifted a rifle, and voices his gratitude, saying, “This our first rifle in our home. It will be a nice addition.”
2015-2016 campaign cycle: Rubio receives $176,030 from gun rights groups — the second-highest haul of any incumbent senator (behind Ted Cruz). Rubio says that President Obama shouldn’t try to tighten background checks via executive action, because that would like “waging war on the Constitution.”
Donations to the ’16 GOP presidential race: Rubio receives $251,729 from gun rights groups — the third-highest haul of any candidate (behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz).
NRA donations to the ’16 Senate re-election races: Rubio rakes in $3,298,405 — the second-highest haul of any incumbent on the ballot (behind Richard Burr).
June 2016: Rubio votes no on another bill that would’ve barred people on the FBI’s Terror Watch List from legally buying guns.
More June 2016: In the wake of a mass shooting in Orlando, Rubio tweets that “our prayers are with those injured and killed.”
July 2016: The NRA gives Rubio an A+ rating. It thanks Rubio for voting yes on a bill that would allow people with concealed-carry permits to tote their guns even in states that ban permits. It also thanks Rubio for introducing a bill that would kill the current gun reform laws in the city of Washington.
January 2017: In the wake of a mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, Rubio says he’s “praying for the victims.”
Feb. 14, 2018: A kid toting an AR-15 kills 17 and wounds 14 at a Parkland, Florida high school. Five of the 14 have life-threatening injuries.
Feb. 14, 2018, a few hours later: Rubio responds in a tweet that’s apparently meant to sooth his constituents. He says, “Today is that terrible day you pray never comes.”
Wow, his praying didn’t work. Who could’ve foreseen such a thing.
Perhaps this empty suit, this abject NRA shill, should ask himself why prayers are worthless. Perhaps he and the rest of the NRA’s Republican investments should leave God out of the equation and do something meaningful here in the earthly realm. That way, perhaps they’d help save some lives down the road. Anything would be better than their sickening stasis. Anything would be better than this rote perpetuation of our national shame.