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On Senate Floor, Rubio Speaks About Tragedy at Broward County’s Douglas High School

Feb 15, 2018 | Press Releases

Rubio: “What is happening in our country and our culture and our society?… To talk about gun violence requires you to talk about both [guns and violence], and the violence part is the one that goes well beyond an easy government solution and entails all kinds of different aspects of modern life that we are still grappling with… We can no longer just chalk it up to isolated instances, because it’s happened too often. And sadly, I believe will happen again until we confront it and try to solve it. And I hope that we will, and I believe that we can. I believe that we must.”
Washington, D.C. – Speaking on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke about yesterday’s tragedy at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Rubio’s speech can be watched here. A rough transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
Washington, D.C.
February 15, 2018
RUBIO: Madam President, I join my colleague, the senior Senator from Florida here today with a broken heart as I do most of the nation would join us in the events of yesterday. And there indeed was a time in the history of our country where after an event such as this, there was a mourning period that followed with a policy debate. But today that time is interrelated and intermixed. I don’t blame it.
I’m not upset about it. In fact, I think there’s just been too many of these now, and that’s why we continue to face this. We continue to face these. I think it is a legitimate thing to say that even as we mourn, we have an obligation to ask ourselves, is there something we could have done or should do to ensure that we don’t see these things happening.
It’s cliché to say but I think it’s important to say that I’m the father of two young ladies who happen to be in high school. I cannot imagine, but I can only envision what it would be like if one day here walking through the Capitol I get a text or one of those news alerts that says there’s been a shooting in the high school that they attend. I can only imagine how fearful it would be when suddenly those texts are not being answered and those calls are not being returned.
I thought about that last night and what it must feel like to be one of those parents at the hotel waiting for word because you hadn’t heard from your children in hours or how painful it must have been for those whose job it was to go to these parents and inform them that their child who they had sent off to school in the morning, perhaps just weeks away from graduation, that their life had ended senselessly in an event such as this.
Because of what happened yesterday and because it’s happened so often, people from across the political spectrum are arguing there’s got to be something we can do. You have to be able to do something. I agree with that sentiment. I understand it, and I would add, though, if we do something, it should be something that works. The struggle up to this point has been that most of the proposals that have been offered would not have prevented not just yesterday’s tragedy but any of those in recent history. I’m going to say now what I’m going to really emphasize at the end– just because these proposals would not have prevented these does not mean that we, therefore, just raise our hands and say, there’s nothing we can do.
It is a tough issue because it is part of the reason why it is so hard to prevent these. It’s because if someone decides that they are going to take it upon themselves to kill people, whether it’s a political assassination of one person or the mass killing of many. If one person decides to do it and they’re committed to that task, it is a very difficult thing to stop, but that again does not mean we should not try to prevent as many of them as we can. Perhaps the answer on how to prevent them begins by asking ourselves what do these things have in common?
They have two things in common. The first is every single one of them was premeditated and planned. None of these shootings were an act of passion where someone got up in the morning, was upset and decided to do something out of rage. They all involved careful planning and premeditation. They deliberately took steps to get the guns, the weapons, the ammunition that they needed. In many cases they carefully studied the outline of the target which they were going to go after. They specific planned soft targets–there’s evidence of that in this case. And they planned to maximize the loss of life. They acquired the weapon they needed, and they used tactics that they needed to kill as many people as they could.
By the way, because of that premeditation and planning is one of the reasons why these laws that have been proposed wouldn’t have prevented them. Because when someone is planning and premeditating an attack, they will figure out a way to evade those laws or quite frankly to comply with them in order to get around it. That may be an argument for new laws of a different kind, but it’s what makes it hard, though not impossible.
The second thing they have in common is that almost all of these attacks were preceded by clear signs of what was to come. A cursory review this morning of just a handful of the recent cases points that out. We are all familiar with the loss of life of over twenty people at a Texas church not long ago. This is a case of a killer whose wife said that he tried to kill her; an individual who was arrested and convicted for domestic violence, which was unfortunately never reported to the background check system; an individual who escaped a mental health facility who was caught sneaking guns onto an air force base while on active duty, who was discharged from the military for bad conduct, who had social media posts that bragged about buying dogs to shoot them and actually expressed admiration for the South Carolina killer in that church killing a few years ago.
An individual who was actually charged with animal mistreatment just a few years earlier. In Sandy Hook, we know that the killer had a spreadsheet with details of the previous school shootings. There was also an individual whose mental state was rapidly deteriorating to the point where he spoke to no one but his mother who he ultimately killed before carrying out the horrific massacre, but someone who was isolated in the room all day, largely playing video games.
The pulse attack, which was precipitated and inspired by an adherence to a jihadist ideology, and Senator Nelson has already pointed out this individual not once but twice had been on the radar screen of the FBI and both times had been cleared. They interviewed him, they asked him questions. He didn’t meet the standard for staying on the list, and he came off.
We are still learning facts about yesterday’s killer. Unlike these others, we may learn more because he was apprehended alive, and authorities have had an opportunity to question him, and that will continue, but here’s what we know. We know he was expelled from school for behavior that the administrators thought was dangerous. We know that from press accounts now, both teachers and students did not act surprised that he was the assailant. In fact, many of them said that there was a running joke, obviously not a joke anymore, that one day he would do something like this.
We know that the media and others have discovered social media posts which are in hindsight deeply disturbing as they point to glorification of gun violence and murder and animal cruelty even apparently. We saw reports this morning of a post on YouTube a year ago where he posted that he wanted to be a school shooter. This was alerted to the FBI, who had followed up, by the way, in an interview with that person who alerted them. They all have this premeditation in common.
We sit here in hindsight and see all of these little points and say taken together, these are warning signs. The problem is they’re not taken together, because the people who might have known about him being expelled may not have known about the social media posts, and the people who knew about the social media posts may not have known about what he wrote on YouTube, and the people who knew about the YouTube may not have known about the fact that the police have been called several times for different reasons and so forth. So, hence the challenge for why it’s so hard to find something that works.
There are a lot of proposals, and I will share the ones because I have heard them before and I hear them today. I am not diminishing them. I don’t want this to be taken as because it won’t work, I don’t even want to hear your argument. I understand. I really do. You read in the newspaper that they used a certain kind of gun and therefore let’s make it harder to get those kinds of guns. I don’t have some sort of de facto religious objection to that or some ideological commitment to that per se. There are all kinds of guns that are outlawed and weaponry that’s outlawed and/or special category.
The problem is that we did that once, and it didn’t work for a lot of reasons. One of them is there is already millions of these on the street. And those things, they last 100 years, and so you could pass a law that makes it hard to get this kind of gun in a new condition. But you’re going to struggle to keep it out of the hands of someone who has decided that’s what they want to use because there are so many of them out there already that would be grandfathered in.
You can do a background check. The truth is in almost all these cases I cited, the individual either erroneously passed a background check,  would have passed it, or did. Again, even if they couldn’t pass the background check, then they could go — they could buy them the way MS-13 does and other gangs and other street elements do–from the black market. Again, not because we shouldn’t have a background check. I’m just trying to be clear and honest here. If someone has decided “I’m going to commit this crime,” they will find a way to get the gun to do it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a law that makes it harder. It just means understand to be honest it isn’t going to stop this from happening.
You could still pass the law, per se, but you’re still going to have these horrible attacks. And that’s why I do think that in some circles, it isn’t fair or right to create this impression that somehow this attack happened yesterday because there is some law out there that we could have passed to prevent it, for if there was such a law that could have prevented yesterday, I think a lot of people would have supported it.
But I also want to be honest to people who share my point of view on these issues. I think it’s also wrong to say that there is nothing we can do. I would admit that perhaps even I in the past, in the way I have addressed this issue or spoken about it, may have come off as dismissive, with the argument that since none of these laws would have worked, there is just nothing we can do, and we’ll just have to deal with it.
Just because I don’t have a quick or easy answer for how to prevent these doesn’t mean that we don’t have an obligation to try and find one. And by finding one, I don’t mean a quick and easy answer. I mean an answer that would work. When I took office here, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Every element of it. I didn’t write the Constitution, but I agree with it and I support it. The Second Amendment is in the Constitution. You can debate what the outlines of the second amendment are or how far it goes, but it’s in there. And I happen to support it. And I happen to oftentimes point to the Second Amendment and say it’s the Second Amendment, right after free speech, which tells you how important it was to those who wrote those words. I still believe every bit of that.
But I also recognize that if it’s fair to say that the Second Amendment is so important — and I want to reiterate it is — because of how high up it is in the ranking from first to second. It’s the second one. Then I have to recognize that there is part of the Constitution that was written even before the Second Amendment, and it’s the Preamble, and that Preamble lays out why we have a constitution and ultimately why we have a government, and in it says that two of the reasons why we have a government and therefore two of the reasons why we have a Senate is to ensure domestic tranquility and to promote the general welfare, and these school shootings and mass shootings and murders that we are seeing now an an accelerated pace, these things are by definition a threat to our domestic tranquility and a threat to our general welfare.
The murder of children in schools, the murder of moviegoers, the murder of people at a church, the murder of people at a dance club on a saturday night, these are all places where we should be enjoying the general welfare and the domestic tranquility, and so even as we recognize it, the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms and protect themselves, a right that I strongly support and will continue to support, we must also recognize that same constitution places upon this government an obligation to ensure domestic tranquility and promote general welfare.
And we must confront the fact that over the last 20 years, these attacks have accelerated, and we must recognize the evidence that they are not isolated from one another. They are building upon one another. We must recognize the scary reality that even as a nation mourns and as parents grieve, it is a high probability if not certainty that somewhere in America right now, some equally troubled and deranged violent individual is reading and watching coverage of this attack and gaining from it not sorrow but inspiration.
That even as we speak here now, even as we stand here in mourning and even as the days go by, there are probably some people out there who are going to try to do this because of what happened yesterday. That is a frightening thought, but it is a reality, and it challenges us to find an answer to a very difficult issue. How do we take all of this bits and pieces of information out there, how do we in this society confront someone who does things that in another era we would say, well, they’re just a strange person, they’re just weird, they’re just going through a phase? We can’t do it anymore.
There is no longer such a thing as just an innocent posting online that you just look at and say that’s just them, they are just strange, they don’t mean anything by it or they’re harmless. We cannot assume that anymore. None of us. How do we create a system where all of these disconnected pieces and bits of data could somehow be tied together so that whenever it was that this killer got a hold of these weapons and proceeded before conducting this attack, someone would say hold on a second, this person is the person who got expelled from school, who had these social media posts, who said he wanted to be a school shooter, who has had an adoptive mother pass away in november, who is now living isolated, who the students all suspected him of being a person who could one day be violent, how do you take these bits and pieces of information and turn them into a usable source of data that perhaps either prevents the acquisition of a weapon or — or preferably intervenes in that person’s life before they carry this out?
If anyone here tells you that they have that one figured out, they’re not being honest. This is hard, but we need to do it. We need to somehow figure it out because it goes to the very core of why we exist to begin with.
There is no greater obligation of our government than to keep our people safe, from threats both foreign and domestic, and we must acknowledge that this is a threat. That for whatever reason, we now live in a society where someone at 19 years of age and in the freest and the most prosperous nation in all of human history has decided to take it upon themselves to take the lives of 17 individuals and severely injure 14 others – and actually probably tried to kill even more. What is happening in our country and our culture and our society? And if there is something to be done with our laws, we should do that, too. I’m not saying don’t focus on the gun part.
We also have to focus on the violence part, for to talk about gun violence requires you to talk about both, and the violence part is the one that goes well beyond an easy government solution and entails all kinds of different aspects of modern life that we are still grappling with. And so i hope that we can start to figure it out.
I haven’t had the time, frankly, in less than 18 hours to bring to the floor a proposal for how we move forward or what the forum would be for this conversation to even begin, but I know that we can no longer just chalk it up to isolated instances, because it’s happened too often. And sadly I believe will happen again until we confront it and try to solve it. And I hope that we will, and I believe that we can. I believe that we must.
Whereas I said at the outset and I will say at the conclusion, it goes to the core of why we even exist to begin with. Keeping our people safe, no matter how new, how different, or how unique the threat may be.