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Friday, January 18, 2019

By Carl Hiaasen, Tribune Content Agencuy

A strange thing happened the other day in Washington, D.C.:

Marco Rubio actually showed up for work.

Without needing Mapquest he found his way to the Senate floor. He even remembered where his seat was.

These days a Rubio sighting in the Capitol is rare, the birdwatcher’s equivalent of spotting a blue-footed booby. Like all senators who’ve run for president, Marco’s been away a lot.

The reason for his recent detour to Washington was to cast a very important vote affecting the security of this country, and of all the Floridians he’s supposed to represent.

The Senate was considering a law to prevent persons on the FBI’s terror watch list from buying explosives or guns. To most Americans, that’s a no-brainer.

Rubio showed up to vote against the bill. Went out of his way to vote against it.

This was only one day after the mass shootings in San Bernardino.

The measure was defeated by the Republican majority, slaves as always to the NRA, which opposed the law. (Rubio isn’t the only GOP senator running for president who’s terrified of the gun lobby — Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham voted against the watch list ban, too.)

In his prime-time speech last week from the Oval Office, President Obama asked: “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon?”

Political cowards can always find an argument. Rubio and others, including Jeb Bush, say they’re concerned about the accuracy of the government’s no-fly list, which is a part of the FBI’s consolidated watch list.

The no-fly database was initiated after 9/11 to stop terrorists from boarding commercial airline flights. In its early years the list included some improbable names, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, the deceased 9/11 hijackers and hundreds of others that shouldn’t have been there.

We don’t know exactly who’s on the no-fly list now, because it’s secret.

Rubio says banning gun sales to everybody that the FBI considers a possible threat would penalize innocent citizens who are mistakenly put on the list. He got this script straight from the NRA.

The real bad guys on the watch list must be laughing their butts off. We won’t let them get on an airplane, but they can stroll into any gun shop and buy an AR-15.

What a country!

According to the General Accounting Office, more than 2,000 persons on the U.S. terror watch list were able to legally purchase firearms between 2004 and 2014. If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.

It’s a small comfort that the FBI can track who among its terror suspects is buying guns. The fact that even one of them can legally obtain assault weapons is outrageous.

Nobody is naive enough to believe that any law can stop aspiring terrorists from arming themselves. The San Bernardino killers weren’t on the watch list, and they obtained their legally purchased assault rifles through a friend. But why make it easier for murderous zealots like these?

Under current laws, even if the radicalized San Bernardino couple had been on the watch list, the FBI could not have legally stopped them from buying guns, ammo or explosive materials as long as they gave their real names. Most Americans, including plenty of Republicans, think that’s nuts.

The very minimum we should do to protect the homeland is prevent these maniacs from buying high-powered weapons over the counter. What other modern nation under threat allows such reckless nonsense?

Since 2007, the government has pushed Congress to prohibit the sale of weapons and explosives to those on the terror watch list. As president, even George W. Bush supported such a ban.

Over and over it gets defeated, led by NRA stooges like Rubio. (He also voted against a bill to have gun-show dealers and online firearms sellers use background checks to identify convicted felons and mentally ill persons).

U.S. intelligence gathering is far from flawless, as we know from 9/11. But what’s the point of making lists of potentially dangerous individuals if law enforcement can’t act on that information to avert future bloodbaths? It’s likely that some of those 2,000-plus persons on the watch list who have bought weapons pose no harm to the public. It’s also likely that some have violence in mind, and these plots can simmer for years.

If the day ever comes when one of those watch-list suspects uses that legally purchased weapon for mass murder, part of the blame will fall on those in Washington who made it so easy.

Just try to find Marco then.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) arrives at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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9 responses to “Rubio Sighting In The Capitol”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    We know we have a problem when politicians, including some running for President, vote against regulation to make it as difficult as possible for suspected criminals on the FBI Watch list to have easy access to guns, assault weapons, large amount of ammunition, and explosives. Incredibly, these are the same bozos criticizing President Obama and Democrats in general for the four attacks carried out by Muslim terrorists during the last 7 years. The dichotomy between the cheap rhetoric they love, and the consequences of their decisions could not be more glaring. We all understand that legislation alone is not going to prevent a terrorist, a criminal, or a mentally ill person from acquiring a lethal weapon in the USA, but we have to start somewhere. I think it is revealing that in the absence of a logical solution, the best the GOP can offer is to arm everyone so that we all have the ability of having an old fashion gun fight whenever we feel threatened.
    As for Rubio’s absentee record, his dismal attendance record began long before he decided to run for President.

    • FireBaron says:

      Dominick, while I normally agree with you, in this case I do not. There is no stated criteria showing how an individual gets put on one of these lists, and if you ask the FBI or NSA about whether you are on such a list, they deny the existence of such. If you do find out you are on a list, no one can tell you what it takes to get your name removed if you feel it was falsely placed there.

      Now, let’s add another dimension to this – should the child of someone on one of these Lists be placed on it as well? Should that child be pre-judged as guilty by familial association?

      Don’t get me wrong. I am in favor of fairly broad gun control. For example, I do not believe private citizens have a right to military grade weapons or ammunition. As a long-time hunter (over 45 years), I see no need for anyone to need a magazine on a rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 5 or 6 rounds, nor more than 10 rounds in a pistol! I believe people convicted of violent felonies (not things like embezzlement) should not be allowed to purchase. I believe people undergoing psychiatric or psychological treatment for violent or aggressive tendencies, or for severe depression should not be allowed to purchase.

      • Dominick Vila says:

        There are ways to work around privacy issues. For example, when a corporation fires someone for cause, and someone calls asking for reference, most use coded words such as “not eligible for rehire”. In this instance, the only thing that would be needed is for gun shop or gun show operators to contact the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other law enforcement and national security agencies to determine if a buyer can buy a weapon. The applicable agencies don’t have to confirm that the buyer is on a watch list. They can simply say that the transaction requires further verification.
        Under no circumstances would I ever agree or support children for crimes committed by their parents. In fact, that’s one of my main concerns with the proposals advanced by the GOP on the issue of illegal immigration.
        Being on a FBI terrorist watch list, which I suspect already exists, must involve a lot more than nationality, ethnicity, and religion. There must be pertinent reasons and evidence to include someone in such lists.

      • RED says:

        Ok, you’re not totally off base here, not totally. First though, who said anything about the children of someone on these lists being placed on the list? You may have pulled that one out of thin air. But here’s the real problem with the ignorant Cons and their incredible hypocrisy. They are perfectly fine with this secret list preventing people from traveling on airplanes. So these low life scum bags have no problem denying people the right to free movement and travel but suddenly start worrying about peoples’ rights when it comes to firearms? Why is that? Wonder if it has anything to do with the NRA scum?

      • mpjt16 says:

        Lets say that only half are really dangerous. Still makes sense to stop them all.

  2. mpjt16 says:

    Way to go Marco. You seem to be trying to pander to every wing nut out there. Get the gays, everybody get a gun. Is that next? A free gun for everyone? Unless you happen to be gay? When do you start playing the “my family escaped Cuba” Card? Oh, maybe no one will buy into that since your family came to the US long before Castro took over Cuba. I am sure that tonight you will amp up your voice and point menacingly with your right knuckle while expounding on your super conservative, ultra religious positions. Yuck!

  3. Insinnergy says:

    I’m surprised he can speak what with the NRA’s private parts stuffed in his mouth.

  4. JPHALL says:

    Isn’t it strange that right wingers are all in favor of stopping Muslims from entering the country, but not making it illegal to buy a gun if on a terrorist list. So much hypocrisy!

  5. Paul Bass says:

    Yep, you need to register your drone but NOT your assault rifle. Makes perfect sense in RWNJ world.

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