Gov. Rick Scott’s absence from the CNN town hall on gun reform and his potential refusal to propose an assault weapons ban will not be forgotten by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — especially as the two likely will face each other for Nelson’s seat in the upcoming midterm elections.
On Thursday, Nelson spoke to reporters and criticized Scott for his association with the NRA and for not attending Wednesday night’s town hall. Nelson said he was at the state Capitol “articulating his position” to legislators on what should be done in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
When asked if he’d lent advice to Scott, who plans to release a legislative proposal on Friday that is widely expected to include mental health and school safety measures, Nelson said, “I was hoping Gov. Scott was going to be at the town hall meeting like Sen. [Marco] Rubio, so that we could start having a discussion.”
Scott’s official response for skipping the CNN town hall was that he’d “be in Tallahassee meeting with state leaders to work on ways to keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.”
Nelson questioned Scott’s response, noting that the Governor attended a funeral in Broward County earlier on Wednesday.
“That doesn’t wash,” Nelson said.
Late in the evening on Wednesday, Scott met with several groups of Stoneman Douglas students in Tallahassee.
Nelson said Scott’s affiliation with the NRA and his related accolades are the reason why he predicts much of the legislative initiatives proposed on Friday will not include gun restrictions.
“The governor has an A-plus [NRA] rating,” Nelson said. “He’s a darling of the NRA, which means the gun manufacturers.”
Nelson preemptively attacked the concept of arming teachers with guns, a proposed policy solution that’s being floated at the state and national level.
He called it “a terrible idea” and questioned whether armed teachers would be able to halt a shooter equipped with an assault rifle.
Nelson lauded efforts to increase mental health and to provide more security for schools, but said they stop short of what he believes is necessary to prevent future mass shootings.
Nelson said the “root problems” can be fixed by ensuring criminal background checks take place every time a gun changes ownership and by banning assault weapons.
“I mean if you’re going to do something about school shootings — and just think about it, America is the only country on the face of the earth that there are constantly school massacres — if we’re going to do something about this we’ve got to get at the root problem and that is to take the assault rifles off the street,” Nelson said.
Scott’s record on guns is the target of a recent ad airing in four markets across the state. Given Nelson’s comments on Thursday, these attacks on pro-gun stances will persist should Scott opt to run against him.