Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott aren’t up for reelection in 2020, but that isn’t stopping a prominent gun control group from spending money to pressure the pair after two more mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a pro-gun-control group backed by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced Wednesday that it plans to spend $1 million on digital and television ads in eight states, including Florida.
The group is demanding that Republicans in Congress pass “red flag” laws, which allow the police or a family member to use the courts to temporarily restrict access to guns for individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others, along with universal background checks on all firearm purchases.
Rubio and Scott support red flag laws, but do not support expanding background checks.
“The American people want action on gun violence, and we’re saying so in a voice loud enough for every senator to hear,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “We’re unleashing the full power of our grassroots movement and leading our most aggressive August spending effort ever, to ensure the Senate gets the message and passes background checks and a strong federal ‘red flag’ law.”
Everytown’s decision to spend money against Rubio and Scott, including TV ads in English and Spanish, comes as President Donald Trump and other Republicans in Congress have signaled an openness to passing red flag laws after 22 people were killed in a Texas Walmart and 10 people were killed outside a bar in Ohio. Congress is not in session until September, and Everytown is using the advertising to keep the issue on voters’ minds after a spate of protests against Republican lawmakers in the last week.
After the shootings, Scott penned an op-ed in the Washington Post urging Congress to pass a red flag law.
“Anyone who has threatened self-harm, has threatened to harm others or is mentally unstable should not have access to a gun,” Scott wrote. “You can call it an infringement on rights if you want. I don’t care. Just get guns away from such people.”
Scott included a red flag provision in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act he signed into Florida law as governor in 2018. Rubio introduced a federal red flag bill last year after the Parkland shooting and re-introduced it this year.
But both senators were against expanding the federal background check system after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill in February.
“I’ve reviewed it and I’m not going to support it,” Scott said in March. “I support the Second Amendment and I’m not going to do anything that’s going to impact law-abiding Americans from having access to their Second Amendment rights.”
Rubio has said he’s focused on passing gun-related bills that could receive 60 votes in the U.S. Senate.
The National Rifle Association opposes red flag laws and expanding background checks.
Everytown, unlike some other gun control groups, has supported Republican candidates and officeholders in the past. The group backed former Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo over his Democratic opponent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in one of the country’s most expensive congressional races last year.
Everytown’s spending will include $550,000 on digital ads targeting Republicans in Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Utah along with $385,000 on TV ads in Colorado, Florida and Kentucky.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week he would try to pair a red flag bill with a background check bill in the U.S. Senate after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t bring the House-passed background check bill up for a vote.
“The notion that passing a tepid version of [a red flag] bill — alone — is even close to getting the job done in addressing rampant gun violence in the U.S. is wrong and would be an ineffective cop out,” Schumer said in a statement.