On Wednesday night, CNN held a powerful town hall event officially called Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action. And demand action is exactly what these young students did. In fact, lots of Twitter users are claiming that one Parkland, Florida shooting survivor, Cameron Kasky, exposed Marco Rubio in a way that no one has attempted.
It began when he asked the Florida senator a simple question:
So, Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?
Emotions began to understandably run high as the student segued into a critical comment about NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch. But eventually, Rubio responded to Kasky's straightforward question. And the audience was not pleased with the senator's non-straightforward answer.
So, number one, the positions I hold on these issues of the second amendment, I've held since the day I entered office in the city of west Miami as an elected official. Number two ... people buy into my agenda. And I do support the second amendment, and I also support the right of you and everyone here to go to school and be safe. And I do support any law that would keep guns out of the hands of a deranged killer.
But Kasky pressed on with a persistence the audience appreciated. "No more NRA money?" he asked one more time. Rubio responded,
The answer is, people buy into my agenda. The influence of these groups comes not from money. The influence comes from the millions of people that agree with the agenda — the millions of Americans who support the NRA ... Ultimately, that [talking about NRA money] is not our goal here. Our goal here is to move forward ...
It wasn't lost on the Parkland shooting survivor that the senator still hadn't directly answered his question.
So right now, in the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?
Kasky interjected into Rubio's non-answer, reminding him that he's talking about NRA money and NRA money only. After over two minutes of back-and-forth, Rubio gave his answer: no. The senator will continue accepting money from the NRA, because as he said, his conservative constituents support what the association stands for. "I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda," Rubio said. Though it likely wasn't intentional, the comment sounded shallow, as if he would accept money from anyone who was willing to give it to him.
That being said, Rubio has broken with the NRA on certain matters, such as passing a law that would increase the minimum age at which Americans can buy firearms. The same night, in fact, the association made it clear that it does not agree with Rubio on the matter. "The NRA supports efforts to prevent those who are a danger to themselves or others from getting access to firearms," NRA Public Affairs Director Jennifer Baker said in a statement, CNN reported. "At the same time, we will continue to oppose gun control measures that only serve to punish law-abiding citizens."
The moment on that CNN townhall stage was tense, to say the least. Just days before standing up on-stage in front of millions of viewers, these students witnessed a devastating shooting that killed 17 people they likely came in contact with almost every day. They will never again see their school in the same light. That's hard to grasp. It isn't difficult to understand, then, why this event was so heated. Regardless of whether you support stricter gun control, you have to agree that these students exhibited immense bravery by both attending the event and by so fiercely standing up to politicians.