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Rubio speaks out on ‘red flag’ legislation at St. Pete appearance

Margie Manning

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During a Tuesday morning stop in St. Petersburg, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) advocated for bipartisan legislation he is sponsoring to prevent future mass shootings.

He also had sharp criticism of white nationalism, which has been cited as the potential motive for the shooter who killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas Saturday.

“White nationalism is an old, dangerous and un-American idea that’s plagued this country. It runs counter to who we are as a people. I’ve repeatedly warned about it. I’m not saying the president. I’m saying anybody. We should never do anything to try to even remotely legitimize anything they stand for,” Rubio said.

He compared white nationalists to radical jihadists.

“They tell you people like you are the good people and everybody else is bad and evil and harmful and dangerous,” Rubio said. “Invariably, when you promote an idea like that there will be some who will decide to take violent action against the others. It seems like that’s the case from what we know so far in Texas and other incidents. It’s an evil poison that needs to be crushed.”

He did not say if white nationalists could be impacted by his legislative proposal, which is designed to provide a legal avenue to remove firearms from dangerous people.

The legislation would incentivize states to enact risk protection orders for people who pose a threat to themselves or others. The orders would prevent those people from purchasing or possessing firearms, while still providing due process protections.

“Today if you find someone who is telling you I’m going to kill people and I’m going to hurt them, there’s nothing you can do until they do it, until they break a law,” Rubio said. “This allows family members and law enforcement to identify someone who’s clearly a threat, go before a judge, and prove — by meeting a certain standard —  that this individual is a danger, often to themselves, whether it’s potential suicide or what have you, and have the weapons removed from them before they commit an act.”

Florida enacted its own “red flag” law shortly after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in south Florida. Since then state law enforcement agencies have carried out more than 1,000 risk protection orders, according to Rubio’s office.

“Complementary to that is our hope of standing up more threat assessment centers across the country. It’s a model that we learned from Los Angeles,” he said. “In addition to being able to have the tool to remove firearms and dangerous weapons from dangerous people, you have to know who they are. You have to find them and identify them. Nothing is failproof or perfect, but this certainly will make things better. We’ve already seen it in Florida, used by multiple jurisdictions to keep people from hurting themselves and potentially others as well.”

Rubio first introduced the legislation, the “Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act,” one month after the south Florida shooting, and he re-introduced it on Jan. 3, the first day of the current legislative session. He released a letter today, calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to include the measure on the committee’s next executive business meeting agenda.

Rubio also discussed separate legislation he’s backing, creating more investment opportunities for women and minority-led startups, during a roundtable discussion with the National Women’s Business Council. The federal advisory group met with women business leaders from St. Petersburg and Tampa Tuesday morning at University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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