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NRA cash helps stay gun control efforts

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The National Rifle Association has pushed back -- successfully -- against nearly every gun control measure Congress has contemplated in recent years.

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Wayne Washington
, Cox Newspapers

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The National Rifle Association has pushed back -- successfully -- against nearly every gun control measure Congress has contemplated in recent years.

High-profile mass shootings -- in Colorado, Connecticut, California, Virginia, Texas, Nevada and now three here in Florida -- led to a predictable lament from many that the nation's gun laws are too lax, that mentally ill people aren't barred from buying guns and that the weapons themselves are ultra-deadly and can easily be modified to be deadlier still.

But those lamentations don't turn into gun-control law. The NRA has seen to that, spending millions to support political candidates who join it in resisting any gun-control measure.

Lots of that NRA money has flowed into the Sunshine State.

The Washington Post has reported that, since 1998, members of Florida's congressional delegation received a collective total of $129,050 from the NRA.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, got the most, $27,450, followed by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, with $15,450, and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, who received $14,450.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Palm City Republican whose district includes northern Palm Beach County, got $5,950 in NRA money, the vast majority of which went to Republicans.

The NRA trains much of its financial firepower on federal elections. It spent $30.3 million helping to elect President Donald Trump, according to, which tracks federal campaign contributions and expenditures. Most of that spending went on messaging designed to knock out Trump's opponent, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Fealty to the NRA has long been a political winner for GOP candidates. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a candidate for governor, touted what he described as media criticism for his support for the NRA.

"The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA!" he tweeted in July. "I'm a proud (hashtag)NRASellout! Sign below if you are, too."

After a gunman killed 58 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas this past year, The New York Times wrote an editorial pointing out the members of the U.S. Senate who had gotten the most money from the NRA during their political careers.

Number 6 on that list, also based on figures, was Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has pulled in $3.3 million over the course of his career.

Rubio took to the Senate floor Thursday, the day after 17 were killed in Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, to say politicians aren't to blame for the mass shootings. Many gun control proposals would not have prevented the mass shootings that have occurred in recent years, he said.

"You could still pass the law, per se, but you're still going to have these horrible attacks," he said. "And that's why I don't think that, in some circles, it isn't fair or right to create this impression that somehow this attack happened yesterday because there is some law out there that we could have passed to prevent it, for if there was such a law that could have prevented yesterday, I think a lot of people would have supported it."

On Dec. 3, 2015, two days after a pair of shooters in San Bernardino, California, killed 14 people, the Senate rejected an amendment expanding background checks during gun sales.

The amendment failed by a vote of 48-50. Rubio voted against it.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was wounded during an assassination attempt in 2011, criticized elected officials, whom she said aren't doing all they can to reduce gun violence.

"The defenders of the status quo -- advocates of the firearms industry and the politicians paid to defend it -- will tell you that events like these are virtual acts of nature, products of mental illness or bad parenting, beyond our ability to control," Giffords said after Wednesday's shooting.

"This could not be further from the truth. Every day we fail to take action, we choose this fate. We tolerate politicians who fail to acknowledge this crisis and vote against our safety. We let our gun violence epidemic continue day after deadly day."

Wayne Washington writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: wwashington(at)

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