Under pressure on guns, Rubio calls debate a reminder ‘we the people don’t really like each other very much’

Florida Republican faces tough job of straddling the divisive debate.
Sen. Marco Rubio, left, speaks during a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Feb. 21. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Sen. Marco Rubio, left, speaks during a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Feb. 21. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Published Feb. 28, 2018|Updated Feb. 28, 2018

WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio is getting squeezed on both sides of the gun debate.

Since the CNN town hall a week ago, Rubio has gotten praise and heat for his reaction to the Parkland tragedy and he's been pushing back on Twitter.

The latest example came this morning, when Rubio appeared to react to some of the student activists who have been intensely critical of the Republican and his NRA ties.

"We claim a Judea-Christian heritage but celebrate arrogance & boasting," Rubio wrote on Twitter, adding, "worst of all we have infected the next generation with the same disease."

Rubio, who met with some Parkland students on Tuesday, disputed the characterization that his reaction showed he "continues to feel it from both sides."

But finding a sweet spot on guns is exceedingly difficult and Rubio's taking it from both sides.

He drew praise for showing up to the CNN town hall and shifted on some gun issues, including raising the age of purchasing AR-15s and the restricting the capacity of magazines.

At the same time, those shifts have drawn criticism from the right, illustrating the same kind of squeeze Rubio felt for his work on immigration.

Rubio's approval rating has taken a hit, dropping to 38 percent, according to the Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday, the lowest mark since Rubio entered the Senate in 2011.

The senator on Wednesday also highlighted Democrats' attempts to formulate a gun message for the upcoming elections.

Reaction to Rubio's remarks:

This morning's tweet echoed Rubio's opening remarks at the CNN town hall.

"I think all of us would like to see action, but I want to tell you what we're going to struggle with," he said. "We are a nation of people that no longer speak to each other. We are a nation of people who have stopped being friends with people because who they voted for in the last election. We are a nation of people who have isolated ourselves to only watch channels that tell us that we're right.

"We're a nation of people that have isolated ourselves politically and to a point where discussions like this have become very difficult. I'm here tonight, and I'm here tonight to answer any question anyone has, explain anything you want to know about what I stand for, what I've done and what I plan to do. And to the students that are here tonight, the ones on the stage, the ones in the audience, I want you to know that I'm actually extremely excited about your engagement, and I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why, because I think you have a chance to do a lot more then change gun laws."