Over his two decade long political life, Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, has accepted approximately $3,303,355 from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Senator Rubio has also earned a consistent “A+” from the organization, which, for once, isn’t the best grade to get. When the Senator walked into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Town Hall last night, he was greeted coldly, and when he started speaking, he was jeered and booed. Suffice to say he wasn’t walking into a building full of MAGA hats and NRA membership cards to begin with, but the vicious opposition to Rubio was so thick that the students themselves asked the audience to calm down so they could hear Rubio’s response.
After the first few rounds of questions, Rubio probably thought he had a handle on things, that his strategy was working. He had decided to avoid most questions directly, vaguely agree with what the students were saying, and point to his support for half-measures and opposition to stronger policies such as an assault rifle ban. This continued until he met Cameron Kasky. Kasky, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, is a prominent member of the #NeverAgain movement who started his question off politely by asking Rubio to assure his friend that he would be safe and shake his hand. Then Kasky dropped his bomb. “So, Senator Rubio,” he said. “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?”
The question elicited massive and wild applause as Rubio struggled his way out of answering directly, attempting to dodge with answers such as, “People buy into my agenda,” “That’s the wrong way to look at it.” However, after Kasky pushed him again and again, Rubio threw out a solid answer: no.
Despite Rubio’s protests that the money he received from the NRA didn’t influence his policies, it’s pretty clear that the lobbying money the NRA chooses to spend for or against a particular candidate is influential in making many Republicans decide which side of the issue to land on. Well, that’s not exactly accurate because almost every single Republican in federal or state office toes the NRA line on gun control. The allure of easy money and fear of ‘protect your guns!’ ads keeps them in line. As Rubio spat out prepared talking points, it was evident that not a single person in the audience believed anything he said was genuine, let alone accurate.
Kasky’s last statement was to ask the audience members if they’d match the donations that Rubio gets from the NRA to show that Stoneman Douglas and this whole community can fight as hard on this issue as the NRA has. Few hands went up, but Kasky said, “We’ll get there.” If it means that there’d be less NRA money in our politics, I’d be all for giving our beleaguered Senator more money, but a more effective way at changing policy for the moment might be simply registering to vote and making sure you come out this November.