U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, said Saturday that Congress needs to take a fresh look at gun laws, but stopped short of committing to many of the reforms activists have been asking for in the wake of a Florida school shooting that left 17 dead.
The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. resulted in large demonstrations of high school student, largely spearheaded by survivors of the shooting itself. The victims have demanded action on gun control – assault weapons bans, limiting magazine size and universal background checks – from a Republican-controlled Congress that has refused to act for nearly a decade.
Portman’s comments didn’t steer far from other Republicans’ talking points in the wake of the Florida – and other – shootings. Portman has benefited from the NRA to the tune of more than $3 million. He received an “A” rating from the NRA during the 2016 election cycle.
Portman said during a brief interview with cleveland.com after a Saturday tour of the University Hospitals Rainbow Center for Women and Children that Congress should act on some gun measures.
“Yeah, I think there’s things that could be done on a bipartisan basis,” Portman said. “One is obviously tightening up the background checks.”
Portman also said Congress should look at raising the legal age a person can legally purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, a proposal GOP Gov. Rick Scott of Florida recently endorsed.
“I think 21 is already the age for at least some handguns,” he said. “And I think that’s something, you know, that Congress ought to take a look at. I don’t think, you know, that there should be a distinction there.”
While he did somewhat break with the National Rifle Association – a stalwart in commanding Republican politics and politicians – by entertaining the idea of increasing the age to sell rifles, the rest of Portman’s comments were largely hedged.
He stopped short of endorsing universal background checks which would be required at any point of transfer instead of only from licensed firearm dealers. He didn’t address magazine size.
And Portman equivocated on an assault weapons ban.
“The reason it was ended was there was not evidence that it was making a difference,” Portman said. “Specifically, you know, there was – when the ban was in place, there was more gun violence in that 10 years than there has been say in the last 10 years. But there are lots of factors here and everything should be looked at.”