“Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?”
Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, posed the question to Sen. Marco Rubio under the hot lights of a CNN town hall in Sunrise, Florida, on February 21, exactly one week after 17 of his classmates and teachers were murdered by a former student wielding a legally purchased AR-15 in nearby Parkland. The crowd cheered and began to rise in a standing ovation, while Rubio blinked back. It was unsaid but implied: Would Rubio still take donations from the NRA, even now?
“The positions I hold on these issues of the Second Amendment I’ve held since the day I entered office,” Rubio stammered. “People buy into my agenda . . . . I will always accept the support of anyone who agrees with my agenda.”
In other words, the answer to Kasky’s question was “no.” In the wake of yet another school shooting (on average, guns have been fired at American schools on a weekly basis since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012), the Republican senator from Florida could not disavow the NRA or its campaign contributions—an estimated $3.3 million over the course of Rubio’s career and the sixth most of any currently serving Congress member, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that tracks the influence of money on U.S. politics.
Momentum around gun reform (and the propulsion to call it reform over control) is ever so slowly gaining, as the Parkland students seemed to snap the country out of apathy, igniting the Never Again movement and leading hundreds of thousands in peaceful protest across the country—including in deeply red states like Oklahoma and Alabama—at the March for Our Lives.?But there is no indication that any of the other?five congressional politicians (all of them Republicans) who have benefited the most from the NRA’s money are prepared to refuse the organization’s cash either.?
Vogue asked the top six current congressional beneficiaries of funds from the NRA or its affiliates during their careers—Sen. John McCain ($7.8 million), Sen. Richard Burr ($7.0 million), Sen. Roy Blunt ($4.6 million), Sen. Thom Tillis ($4.4 million), Sen. Cory Gardner ($3.9 million), and Rubio—if they will continue to count the NRA among their donors. None responded except for Rubio, whose office emailed a statement that echoed his response to Kasky: “Senator Rubio has been a strong supporter of the Seconnd Amendment since when he entered the Florida legislature in 2000. Like on virtually any issue, those who share his views on the Second Amendment support him, and those who do not oppose him.”