Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio is taking a hard position against President Obama’s current gun control push, but various reports on Rubio’s time in the Florida house of representatives and U.S. Senate show a past marked by a fluctuating relationship between Rubio and gun rights.
In one such report, published in 2010, former NRA president Marion Hammer said Rubio “has not been a friend to gun owners.”
Hammer was reflecting on the difficultly that attended the passage of a bill guaranteeing employees the ability to keep guns in their cars at work for self-defense.
According to Politico, Hammer described Rubio as a man who talked pro-gun when the cameras were rolling but worked in ways that hurt the bill’s chances of passage behind the scenes. Hammer said, “He has not been a friend to gun owners. He tried to cover himself by voting for it after doing everything he could to work against it. He plays to an audience. We will make sure our members know.”
The “Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act” passed the legislature in 2008—during Rubio’s tenure as Florida House Speaker—and was signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist. Rubio voted for the measure, yet just over a year after it was signed, Hammer reflected on the effort it took to get the bill passed and said, “[Rubio] was a big disappointment to us when he was the speaker. He talked the talk, but he didn’t walk the walk,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Washington Examimer points to a Miami Herald story in which Rubio said he was okay with “reasonable restrictions” on guns. Rubio said this while he was running against Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
But Rubio—now Senator Rubio—wasn’t done. The Washington Examiner reports that “Rubio hinted after the Sandy Hook school shooting that he might be open to stricter gun laws for convicted felons or the mentally ill.” At that time, Rubio’s spokesman Alex Contant said that the Florida Senator had “always been open to measures that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”
Breitbart News reached out to the Rubio Campaign on January 1o for a response to these allegations. They sent Breitbart News a letter—dated October 21, 2010—in which Rubio informed the NRA’s Chris Cox, “there [was] a deliberate campaign… under way in Florida to mislead gun owners about [Rubio’s] strong record of defending Second Amendment rights.”
The Rubio Campaign also sent a link to an April 2014 Miami Herald article, which sought to explain why Rubio slipped from receiving an “A” from the NRA to receiving a “B+.” The Herald article said:
The state NRA did… give Rubio a B+ in 2010, despite an otherwise A-rated gun-rights record.
The NRA’s grades are not based on any scientific formulas. They’re more subjective, rooted in the feel that lobbyist Marion Hammer has for candidates. And, at the time, she was whole-hog for then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who was running for U.S. Senate against Rubio. Rubio was out of office, having left as Florida House speaker after the 2008 elections. Before assuming that office, he had an A rating.
But it wasn’t until he faced Crist, wasn’t in a position of power and was a long-shot candidate that Hammer announced he’d get his A grade dropped. Hammer couldn’t point to a clear case of Rubio scuttling gun-rights laws.
But, she said at the time, that she made the deduction because of trouble that cropped up in the Rubio-led House over a measure that allowed employees to keep firearms that are locked in their cars parked on workplace property.
The measure ultimately passed and Rubio voted for it. But it wasn’t good enough for Hammer.
“He voted when the gun bill was brought to the vote, but we know that what goes on behind the scenes is an entirely different story,” Hammer said. She said the NRA ratings — a big deal in the Republican primary — are based not just on how politicians vote, but on the totality of what they do or appear to do.
“We watch everything: false claims, lips service, what a member tells other people,” said Hammer adding that, with Rubio “it’s not pretty… we take our issue very seriously.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.