US Republican Senator and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio has again opposed tightening gun laws, following a deadly shooting in Florida where at least 17 people lost their lives on Wednesday.
Rubio said on Fox News on Wednesday that “people still don’t know how” the shooting occurred, or how 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz got the assault rifle he used to shoot down 17 people and injure a dozen others in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami.
“I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there was some law that we could have passed that would have prevented it. And there may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts?” he said.
The pro-gun senator from Florida asked his Senate colleagues not to use the incident as an opportunity to call for increased gun control measures.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting ranked as the second-deadliest act of gun violence ever on a US public school campus.
In December 2012, twenty children and six adults were fatally shot by a gunman at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Following the shooting, then-President Barack Obama pushed for gun law reforms, including expanded background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines.
But, the powerful gun lobby and its supporters in Congress, like Senator Rubio, blocked the proposed measures.
Obama said that the greatest frustration of his time in the office had been the inability to reduce unparalleled levels of gun violence in the United States.
After Wednesday’s shooting, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy spoke at the Senate floor and called the incident “a consequence of our inaction” on gun violence.
“I think you can always have that debate,” Rubio said of gun rights. “But if you’re gonna have that debate about this particular incident you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it.”
“I’ve seen a lot of that on TV, and maybe there is a law that could have prevented this instance. But we don’t know that and neither do they,” he added.
Each year, more than 32,000 people die as a consequence of gun-related violence, suicides, and accidents in the United States, which is by far the highest among industrialized countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Weak gun laws that allow for some criminals to possess firearms legally are contributing to the high rate of gun violence in the US, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
‘There’s a time’ to talk about gun control
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday said that “there’s a time” that policymakers should take a stand on mental health and gun control.
“There’s a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding that we make sure that people are safe,” Scott said at a news conference in Parkland.
After the shooting, Democratic lawmakers renewed calls for tightening gun laws, particularly for those with mental illnesses.
“This is not normal. This is not acceptable. This is not inevitable,” said Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “It’s long past time for our leaders to stop pretending we are helpless in the face of such tragedy.”
Representative Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) asked President Trump to work with lawmakers to pass gun-control laws.
“I invite him to get off his ass and join me in trying to do something about it,” Moulton wrote on Twitter.