Marco Rubio showed his true yellow colors last week, joining 45 other cowards to defeat Senate legislation designed to stop criminals from buying firearms online and at gun shows.
The vote was nauseating. So is Rubio.
A few days earlier, he’d admitted to Fox News that he hadn’t read the complete bill that would expand federal background checks of gun buyers, but he was opposing it anyway.
Other pertinent materials that Rubio obviously didn’t read included a recent New York Times sampling of nutjobs, convicted criminals and even one fugitive who purchased assault rifles and other weapons over the Internet.
On NBC, Rubio repeated the NRA lie that background checks don’t work.
The truth: Since 1998, the National Instant Background Check System has blocked more than two million gun purchases by felons and others who are prohibited from owning firearms.
It’s unknown how many of them later went to gun shows and purchased AK-47s because, in most states, gun-show vendors aren’t required to keep detailed sales records. That’s one loophole that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey were trying to fix.
The Manchin-Toomey bill was supported by a huge majority of Americans — between 86 and 90 percent, depending on the poll — but not by the junior senator from Florida, the one who thinks he’s going to be the nation’s next president.
Listen to what he said on television:
“The fact of the matter is, we have a violence problem in the United States. Guns are what people use, but violence is our problem.”
Really? Stop the presses!
In fact, Rubio doesn’t have much to say about the causes and costs of violence in American culture. Currently there’s no mention of this tragic problem on his official website.
What you’ll find there is multiple “news” items about his role in immigration reform. He believes this is the issue that will make him the Republican frontrunner and help put him in the White House.
That’s why he appeared on seven national talk shows last Sunday — to promote new immigration legislation. When questioned about the upcoming gun bills, Rubio faithfully recited his NRA scripture.
And when it came time to decide on Wednesday, with heartsick families of the murdered Newtown children watching from the Senate gallery, Rubio stood with the cowards and pimps for the gun-manufacturing lobby.
He voted no to universal background checks. No to a ban on assault rifles. No to modestly limiting the number of bullets in magazine clips.
To what did the bold new face of the Republican Party say yes?
An NRA-backed proposal that would have allowed persons with concealed-weapons permits in one state to carry their weapons anywhere in the country. Top law enforcement officials thought this was an extremely poor idea, and it was defeated.
Most of the senators who voted against expanding background checks on gun buyers did so out of fear. They come from conservative, mostly rural states, where a flood of NRA money and advertising could boost their opponents in the next election.
Cowering, they acted out of political self-preservation.
Rubio has no such alibi. He doesn’t need the NRA to get re-elected in Florida, a state of 18 million residents and rapid urbanization.
The difference between him and the other 45 cowards is that Rubio isn’t thinking about going back to the Senate. He’s thinking about moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
He’s thinking about those electoral votes in the West and the Deep South. He’s thinking about the Iowa primary.
In other words, he’s thinking just like Mitt Romney. And that’s how he’s going to end up — losing women voters, losing minority voters, losing the big cities and losing the election. That’s assuming he gets the GOP nomination.
Rubio had an opportunity to enter that Senate chamber and do something that almost all Americans believe is right and sensible for this country.
Something that would have set him apart from his gutless colleagues.
Instead he revealed himself as one more cynical slave to the gun makers’ lobby. His yellow vote won’t be forgotten in 2016.
It should be made to haunt him.
(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)
AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File