As bipartisan gun bill passes, Florida’s U.S. Senate candidates remain sharply divided

Sen. Marco Rubio and his likely challenger, Rep. Val Demings, share differing views on how to approach gun reform.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The passage of a bipartisan gun violence bill revealed a contrast between incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and his likely Democratic challenger, Rep. Val Demings.

The $13 billion bill would incrementally toughen background check requirements for young people to buy guns, deny more domestic abusers access to guns and help local authorities temporarily take weapons from people judged to be dangerous, under the so-called “red flag” provisions.

After Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, 14, died in the Parkland school shooting, confronted Rubio at a town hall following the mass shooting, Rubio pledged to support raising the age to buy a rifle to 21 and also said he supported background checks. But Rubio opposed the bill, believing it to be unconstitutional.

“Unfortunately, after careful review, the constitutional protections in the package are inadequate,” Rubio said in a statement. “In fact, they are significantly weaker than my bipartisan effort with Senators Scott, Reed, and King. I promised the people of Florida I would do everything I could to keep our schools and communities safe while protecting their constitutional rights. This bill fails that test.”

Demings, however, supported it.

“As a former Chief of Police, I’ve seen the devastating impact that gun violence has on our communities, and as Chief, I was committed to doing something about it and I did,” Demings said in a statement. “Marco Rubio’s vote is downright disappointing but not surprising.”

A June 8 Quinnipiac University poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans support tougher background checks and red flag laws.

About the Authors:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter. 

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.