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Rubio Discusses Way Forward on Gun Violence at Parkland Hearing
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on the Parkland shooting and legislative proposals to improve school safety.
Yesterday, Rubio, Senator Hatch, and Parkland families held a press conference on the Stop School Violence Act. Rubio recently outlined a multipronged plan to address gun violence following the Parkland tragedy. Several Rubio proposals have already gained promising momentum.
For TV stations interested in a video message regarding the hearing, a high-quality video is available here.
A transcript of Rubio’s remarks at the hearing can be found below. A high-quality version video is available here.
RUBIO: Unlike any of the issues we’ve confronted in the seven years here, this one has had a dual impact, both as a policy maker and also as the father for four school age children, including two girls in high school. And each time the pictures come up of the students and their families, I’m familiar with the stories because they’re the stories that could very well have been the classmates of the children that my kids go to school with. And like parents all across the country, one worries every day now about what could happen when you drop them off in the morning, and no American family should carry that burden, and our heart breaks for the families that are carrying it now, and the in the hopes that we can act here to make sure this happens to no one ever again.
Today, across the country, in a few minutes, students from across America will be exercising their First Amendment right to speak out about changes that they want on how we regulate our Second Amendment right. It’s an interesting lesson in civics and in our constitutional process, which of all the committees in the Senate, this one understands better than any. And more than any other committee in the Senate, this committee also understands the difficulties and the political back and forth that occurs, the difference—the strong, well-intentioned differences of opinion that exist about how to regulate that Second Amendment. But the one thing I believe we do have common ground on is that I know of no one, I know of no one in this country who wants to see another community or another state endure such senseless violence.
In the aftermath of the shooting, I spent time talking to school administrators and law enforcement and families, students, state officials, everyone we could talk to to learn, to ultimately identify what could have stopped this, and I want to unequivocally state to you this tragedy was the result of two things. The first is a multi-systemic failure by government agencies at the federal, state and local level. And second, because of vulnerabilities in our existing laws that need to be addressed. One of the family members I’ve spoken to regularly and whom I admire for his strength and his dedication is Ryan Petty, Alaina’s father, who will be speaking to you in a few minutes. He lost his daughter on that day. Patrick, his son, and their family lost a beloved sister. She was a friend to many.
You’ll have the opportunity to hear from Ryan and also from Ms. Katherine Posada, who is a teacher at the school, and I encourage every single member of the committee to listen to what Ryan has consistently said—that we should work together to take meaningful action when we can agree. He said yesterday that the shooter was the “worst kept secret in Parkland.” That’s perhaps the most stunning truth of all. The school system knew he was dangerous. Local law enforcement knew he was dangerous. The FBI was told directly that he was dangerous. Someone close to the shooter called and said they feared he would carry out a school shooting to both the sheriff’s office and the FBI. He utilized social media platforms. On one occasion, he declared he was going to become a professional school shooter. Yet somehow not only did he buy multiple guns, he stepped foot in that school and shattered a community.
He didn’t slip through one crack, he slipped through every crack. And we have to figure out a way to address those vulnerabilities.
There are currently insufficient programs in place to report people like this shooter and to coordinate law enforcement, school officials, and mental health. That’s why I believe we must pass the Stop Violence Act to strengthen school security, provide school training to identify these threats, create threat assessment and crisis intervention teams so that all these entities can come together and compare notes. I believe if that had happened here, they would have acted.
Also, we need to provide law enforcement and family members who have someone they know who’s dangerous and threatening, they have today very limited options on what they can do about it. Which is why I hope we can pass a law that incentivizes states to do what Florida has now done and five other states have already done and that is create gun violence protection orders that provides due process but also a mechanism by which dangerous individuals cannot just be prevented from buying any gun but also lose the ones they have now before they take action.
Third, and something that hasn’t received enough attention, I believe that we need to spend some time examining the policies that could potentially discourage schools from reporting dangerous students. I want you to understand, I do not want students being arrested, especially for things that would not be a crime to an adult and for things that are typical of the school experience and whatever. But I do think this guy should have been arrested because he specifically threatened students and their lives. He was a dangerous individual, and Broward County’s policies that serve as a framework for the federal guidance. To date we cannot determine how exactly the reports related to this shooter were handled.
[Broward County’s discipline policy has] a diversion program called Promise but I’ve been told by the superintendent he was never in that program and the only other route that remains is that the law enforcement route. And yet, it’s not clear that law enforcement was — he was ever referred to law enforcement to act. If he had been, if he had been arrested or committed, he would have failed the background check, he would have never owned that gun or any other gun and we would not be meeting here today to talk about this terrible tragedy.
There are other things I believe we should do. I support Senator Cornyn and Senator Murphy’s bill, the Fix NICS Act. And it’s an important improvement that we must make. I also support Senator Toomey’s and Senator Coons’ Denial Notification Act for NICS. These are all important things. I thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I hope you’ll consider us willing partners, both Senator Nelson and I, to move forward on this, and I want to close with this note. Out of tragedy and out of heartbreak, the families of the 17 victims in Parkland came together and they decided that they would set aside, for a moment, their differences on all sorts of other issues so they could come together to fight hard on the things they agreed on. I believe that should serve as an example to this body. There are things we agree on. We should pass those things. There are things we should disagree on. I hope we debate them. Perhaps we can find common ground on those as well, but we should first act on the things we can agree on and take action so this never happens again to anyone, anywhere.