Without giving too much away, the main character in the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” rents three billboards in order to pressure a local sheriff to solve her daughter’s murder. It became the basis for real-life activism in Miami last week, with three new signs in Miami that collectively read, “Slaughtered in school … and still no gun control? How come, Marco Rubio?”
To be sure, the Florida Republican is hardly the only policymaker who’s done no meaningful policymaking on gun violence, but as the Washington Post reported, Rubio has become “the face of congressional inaction” on the issue.
He called it “heartbreaking” and said he was devastated. Dozens killed or injured in a shooting rampage that shook Florida and the nation — and “deeply impacted” him as he considered his political future.
Twenty months passed. Then, it happened again. Another mass killing.
Now, Marco Rubio has become the face of congressional inaction on tougher gun restrictions, especially to the students who survived the deadly Valentine’s Day shooting at a Florida high school.
As the article referred to, part of the problem likely stems from the senator’s political tactics in 2016. After his presidential campaign failed rather spectacularly, Rubio categorically ruled out another Senate campaign. The Floridian changed his mind, however, after the mass shooting in Orlando that summer.
Indeed, the day after the murders, Rubio said, “I think when it visits your home state, when it impacts a community you know well, it really gives you pause to think a little bit about your service to your country and where you can be most useful to your country.”
Though it seems like an awfully convenient excuse for a politician to extend his career, voters tolerated the dramatic flip-flop and Rubio won fairly easily. His service to his country nevertheless included no meaningful efforts to stem the tide of gun violence.
The frustrations grew last week when the senator, just one day after the massacre in Parkland, delivered remarks on Capitol Hill that dismissed the efficacy many proposed gun reforms.
That said, Rubio, who has an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association, seems reluctant to be seen doing literally nothing, and Politico reported yesterday on the GOP senator’s latest idea:
Responding to his critics in the wake of Florida’s latest mass shooting, Sen. Marco Rubio says a task force of experts should examine the “epidemic” of mass shootings and expressed concern that Congress essentially bans federally funded research into firearm violence. […]
Rubio’s support for a task force is still in its early stages and marks a first for him since he joined the Senate as a gun-rights conservative.
Rubio said he wasn’t sure who would sit on a task force or not, and he understood “people roll their eyes at a task force.”
Yes, they will, and for good reason.
For one thing, even if there was some kind of new congressional committee, there’s a limit on how much information its members could compile thanks to the Republicans’ Dickey amendment. Is Rubio prepared to support its repeal? The Politico piece said the Florida senator “was unaware” of the 22-year-old policy.
Second, the premise of creating a new panel is that policymakers have no idea how to address the scourge of gun violence. There are, however, plenty of experts in this field who can offer guidance on the subject.
Some political will would almost certainly make more of a difference than the latest “task force.”