Florida Senator Marco Rubio unveils gun and school safety plan as Congress scrambles to address gun violence


Republican Senator Marco Rubio has unveiled a new gun and school safety plan, which will add to the growing number of bills already introduced to combat gun violence in the wake of another mass shooting. 

President Donald Trump has called for a “comprehensive” bill to address gun issues, but he is unlikely to get what he wants given the increasing amount of proposals from members of Congress. 

Members of Congress have faced more pressure to find a solution to prevent mass shootings after an alleged 19-year-old gunman on Valentine’s Day open fired at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida, killing 17 people.

“I also know that there is widespread support and agreement that we must act now, as soon as possible, to prevent another tragedy like Parkland,” Mr Rubio said while speaking on the Senate floor.

The Florida senator outlined six bills that he either supports or will be introducing, including creating “gun violence restraining orders” that would enable law enforcement or family members to get a court order to prevent an individual deemed ‘dangerous’ from purchasing a gun. It would also enable family or law enforcers to remove a gun from those individuals’ possession. 

“I wanted to come here …  and announce a comprehensive plan … a series of measures that I believe could prevent these attacks before they happen,” Mr Rubio said. 

He added that he believed each of the ideas “should all enjoy bipartisan support”. 

Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on gun issues, causing what appears to be a continuous stalemate over measures in Congress that may restrict gun access. Any measure needs at least 60 votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority.

Other measures that have been proposed focus on background checks. One such bill, introduced by Republican Senator John Cornyn and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, offers financial incentives for state and local governments to report information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. 

Some Democrats have argued that the narrow Cornyn-Murphy bill is not comprehensive enough to address gun safety in an era when shootings have become normal. Meanwhile, a succession of Republicans have said they were unwilling to move ahead on anything but the most modest proposals.

On the first day students of Stoneman Douglas returned to school following the shooting, several legislators gathered at the White House to discuss school safety and gun legislation.

“Many ideas, some good & some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House,” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!”

Senate Republicans have already rejected the President’s call to combine multiple gun proposals into one. 

Mr Cornyn, who is leading the Republican response to gun violence in the upper chamber, told reporters after the White House meeting that he still favours a limited approach, according to The Hill

A comprehensive bill is much less likely to receive 60 votes than a narrowly-focused bill. 

Also on Thursday, three senators introduced a bipartisan bill to ban bump stocks, devices that effectively make semi-automatic rifles fire like a machine gun. 

They asserted that legislation is still needed despite Mr Trump’s promise to sign an executive order making the devices illegal.

“I am encouraged by the president’s directive to the Department of Justice to regulate these devices, but a temporary regulatory fix is no substitute for permanent law,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake, one of the bill’s sponsors, in a statement.