TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - News 6 investigator Mike Holfeld spoke to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio this week ahead of his Wednesday announcement regarding proposed gun-restraining measures in Florida.
The measure would allow anyone who suspects a person of being a potential threat to the community to seek a court order asking to have their weapons taken away.
Read the full question-and-answer log from the interview below.
Holfeld: The last time I saw you, believe it or not, it was at the Pulse (nightclub), and I know how upset you were that day. We've got, eh, we’re on the clock here, five minutes, is it OK if we go on the record?
Rubio: Let's go.
Holfeld: OK, let me ask you this. You were upset that day, I remember talking to you at the Pulse (nightclub). What in the world took so long that you and I are talking about this so many years later?
Rubio: Well, a year and a half later, unfortunately, Pulse was a terrorist attack, and there are things we should have done to improve our background check system as a result of it. That hasn't happened. I have a proposal out there to do it and it's kind of gotten lost in the ether, and I hope we can revisit it, because that threat continues. It’s very different from Parkland, with a student who showed up at a school he once attended and took the lives of 17 innocent people. So different causation, but nonetheless, the same result. And that is the loss of innocent life.
Holfeld: I saw your speech from the floor and you've got some great ideas. But before we talk about that I want you to put your state lawmaker hat on. We have a proposal here in Florida that includes training teachers for giving them guns and training them for 132 hours. Is Florida's legislation doing enough? What's your take on that?
Rubio: Well, my understanding is, it no longer includes teachers. It's now down to administrators at a specialty training and it's optional. So counties will be able to decide whether they want it or not. I am generally someone who thinks that that is not something that is necessary in the short term. But, that said, I wouldn't vote against the bill just because of that, because I think they have pared it down in a way that to be acceptable and because it's voluntary. If a county doesn't want to do it, they don't have to. It has a lot of other things that are very important: money for school security, money to identify these people before they act, a gun violence restraining order that creates the ability of law enforcement to go to a state court, prove that someone is dangerous to themselves or to others, stop them from buying guns and take away the guns that they have now. Those are important measures, and that, if those two things that existed here, identifying this killer and being able to go to court and take away his guns, we could have prevented this from happening before it happened. The best way to stop these shootings is to stop the person who is going to do the shooting from even stepping foot or moving forward…”
Holfeld: What you said, Senator, on the floor, and I almost fell out of the chair, (that) federal law appears to discourage school systems from reporting dangerous students. I mean, that ... ties into your gun violence restraining act. Are you telling me that teachers can see a problem and not red flag them?
Rubio: I'm telling you that there was a guidance issued in 2014 -- It’s well-intentioned, most of us support it -- and that is that you shouldn't, you should try to figure out a way not to have students arrested for common things that kids do in school, or a cigarette in the classroom, or whatever in a backpack, or whatever. But I do think there comes a point where, if someone is a danger, they need to be reported to law enforcement. And it's not clear that every school district is interpreting it that way. And so what I've asked the Department of Education to do, I sent the letter to Secretary DeVos yesterday. I spoke to her on the phone this morning. I've asked her to issue new guidance that makes it abundantly clear to school districts all across the country that their federal funding is not endangered if they report dangerous students to law enforcement, that that does not endanger their money under the federal law.
Holfeld: Lie and try. It reminds me of those stories you hear when the older kids got the boos for the younger kids. Are you telling me people of age, eh, the intelligence that you put together talking to law enforcement, and I know you've done that, are sneaking through the system? They're cheating the system?
Rubio: Well, it's actually a little bit different than that lie and try. Basically, as someone who is not allowed to buy a gun because they're a felon, or because they've been convicted of multiple misdemeanors, and they go and try to buy a gun anyway, and they failed the background check and the FBI is not reporting that to local law enforcement. And so, if you've got somebody out there in Central Florida who is a felon -- is not eligible to buy a gun -- tries to buy a gun anyway, fails the background check. Should not local law enforcement be told that someone who is not eligible to buy a gun in their community tried to buy a gun. Because that information, together with other things you might know, may lead you to say, ‘We'd better go check up on this person and see what they're up to.’ That's not happening right now. Lie and try, bipartisan bill, widespread support would require the FBI to immediately notify local law enforcement when someone who cannot buy a gun tries to buy a gun and fails the background check.
Holfeld: Two more questions. Law enforcement, people I work with, say we should have all agencies share intel like that. That sounds like that marries to what you're saying. I mean, we need to know about these kids that they're out there, these troublemakers.
Rubio: Yeah, Stop School Violence Act creates federal funding from the Department of Justice for states, and through the states, local communities to set up risk assessment task force. And what that would allow you to do is have a collaborative effort with law enforcement, schools, mental health experts. Others are sitting together at the table and comparing notes about people. And so you can imagine how that would work in this case. They knew this guy was a problem in the schools. Then they would know that the sheriff would say, “Well, we've had 40-something calls to his home,’ and the FBI would say, ‘Well, we had an anonymous tip,’ and DCF would say, ‘Well, we went out and visited their home because we got a complaint.’ Someone will be able to put all of this together and realize we've got a big problem on our hands. And so that's what the Stop School Violence Act would fund.
Holfeld: No, I love the Stop School Violence Act. Can you get the votes on the Hill?
Holfeld: Great ideas. What do you think is the selling point to convince your colleagues on the Hill?
Rubio: Well, it has broad bipartisan support. I mean, the majority and minority leader, the Democrat and Republican leader in the Senate are co-sponsors of the bill. I think the only impediment is people that decide, ‘Well, let's not vote on this until we can hold it hostage to vote on some of the other things that are more controversial.’ That would be a mistake. Here's my argument: All these debates about gun control. Those issues aren't going away. I mean, they're going to be here. They've been here before. No matter how they turn out, the other side is going to want to keep debating it. That debate's going to happen. But there are a bunch of things that we already agree on that we can pass fairly quickly. Let's do those. That's step one. Step one should be let's pass the things that we agree on that we can get done quickly, then step two should be a debate on all these other issues that we've been debating about in this country for 240-something years. So, I'm not saying we shouldn't do part two.
Holfeld: I'm sorry. We only got about 30 seconds. What about regulating the sale of guns? What about a moratorium for a few months so you can get the work, the good work that you're doing there, because I agree with you. But something has to be done about these guns so the wrong people don't get the gun.
Rubio: So I don't believe that the gun control that's being proposed would stop these things from happening, because even if you took away the certain types of guns, there are plenty of other guns that function the exact same way -- just as fast, just as powerful -- that would not be banned. My view is, we should go after the killers, not the guns. Because if you keep guns away from the killers, and killers off the streets and out of the schools, you can prevent these attacks from happening. That's where I personally am at. Other people disagree. I think we should have that debate and see what we can come up with. But that's going to take more time and we should do it. But let's first do the things that we agree on. Get that out of the way so that we can get some momentum and we can start making some progress.
Holfeld: Kids are in public school. My wife teaches at an elementary school in Seminole County. Are you concerned that the schools right now are soft targets and we need to beef up the security in those schools?
Rubio: Yeah, you're always concerned about that, certainly, and we shouldn't be, but we are. And obviously, look, I think since this has happened, there's a lot more awareness. You've seen multiple cases around the country of students being turned in by their families because of threats that they're making preventing attacks. The day after this attack, there was a student in the state of Washington who was stopped because his grandmother turned him in. But we have to systemize this. This cannot just be a random one off. We have to make sure that there's awareness across the country, that this is happening everywhere, because we never want to see a school shooting, a mall shooting, anything like this happen again. And the best way to prevent it is to find the people who are going to do it. And every one of these cases, they're giving off warning signals and telling someone well in advance. Let's find these people, let's stop them from doing it, including taking away their guns through a court order before they kill someone.
Holfeld: Will you be making the official proposal today, sir? I know you've been working with your colleagues on the Hill.
Rubio: So, our hope is to be announcing this afternoon the gun violence restraining order, creating a federal incentive for states to do what Florida is doing, and that is create a law that allows local law enforcement to go to a court, prove, prove it, get a court order and take away someone's guns before they go out and kill themselves or hurt somebody.
Holfeld: You think it’s going to get the positive support you're hoping for?
Rubio: Well, it has bipartisan support. I hope we can get the time and the space to get it voted on. Because you want to talk about something that could make a difference? That could make a difference. If local law enforcement had had that tool and had acted upon it, they could have kept this from happening.
Holfeld: Would that include domestic violence injunction, sir?
Rubio: Sure, I mean, it will include anything that's a danger. It doesn't have to be someone’s going to shoot a school. It could be someone is going to kill themselves, or someone is going to kill a spouse, or someone who said they want to go into where they used to work and kill their former employer because they got fired. Anyone who you can prove to a court, with clear and convincing evidence, that they are a threat to themselves or to others, with a court order, you would be able to seize their guns and keep them from buying guns until either that situation is resolved, or, or forever.
Holfeld: Senator, thanks for all the good work you're doing. Good luck with that today.
Rubio: Thank you.
Holfeld: Thank you.
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