GOP Rep. Pushing For Assault Rifle Ban: GOP Colleagues Are Privately Interested

UNITED STATES - JULY 28: Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on July 28, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

A Republican lawmaker from Florida, who has an “A-plus” rating from the National Rifle Association, has publicly called for a ban on assault rifles this week and told CNN Tuesday that his GOP colleagues are privately receptive to his proposals.

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), an Army combat veteran, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times last week calling for a ban on assault and tactical weapons like the kind he used while in combat. He said since he returned to Congress Monday, Republicans have come up to him and told him “good job for taking a stand.”

“Many of them have come up to me, you know, kind of more so one-on-one, a little bit quietly. You know how that is,” he said during an interview on CNN Tuesday morning. “They’re not necessarily wanting to have this conversation in front of everybody, They’re saying ‘Hey, good job on you. Good job on taking a stand. Good job in saying that. How is that playing? What are people saying to you back in your district?’ They’re really wanting to know what is the reception about what I’ve heard about what I’ve said.”

Mast is one of very few Republicans who has expressed any type of support on a weapons ban following the mass shooting at the Florida high school earlier this month that left 17 people dead. In his Times op-ed he argued that the assault rifle is too similar to the “most lethal” weapons he used to kill enemies while in combat.

“My rifle was very similar to the AR-15 style semi-automatic weapons used to kill students, teachers and a coach I knew at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where I once lived,” he wrote in the Times op-ed. “We used it because it was the most lethal, the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the army could put in my hands.” 

During the CNN interview, Mast pointed to reports that at least four officers either didn’t enter the school or didn’t engage the shooter for several minutes after the firing started and said that their fear “should give us pause” about the power of the assault rifle.

These are men with tactical training, with body armor and with pistols who wouldn’t go in there because they were basically brought to being frozen by an 18-year-old (sic) with an AR-15,” he said. “That should give us pause about the power of that platform.”

The alleged shooter is actually 19-years-old and a former student from Stoneman Douglas.

Mast said he was inspired to write the op-ed after he visited a pool with his family and realized his children were all “sitting ducks” if someone decided to attack the pool and there wasn’t much he could do to save them, even though he was carrying a concealed pistol.

“We have to come together with this commitment,” he said. “Not one more death inside of a school. Not one more school shooting. We have to come together with that. If we can’t, who are we if can can’t come together that way?”