Rick Scott calls two-pronged arms deal ‘soft on crime’

WASHINGTON — The leader of the Senate Republican campaign branch on Thursday spoke out against a bipartisan gun compromise, calling the bill “soft on crime” because it does not permanently ban gun ownership by domestic abusers.

sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) criticized the bill as both too strict, because it would encourage states to enact “red flag” laws that confiscate weapons from dangerous people, and not strict enough, because it would allow abusive dating partners to get their weapons back after five years.

“People who have been accused, tried and convicted of beating their partner automatically have their gun rights back after just five years,” Scott said in a statement. “I will not support this kind of soft-on-crime policy.”

Scott’s statement — a likely harbinger of future attacks on Democrats for backing the legislation — is somewhat surprising, given that the part of the bill that addresses the so-called “boyfriend loophole” is one of its strictest provisions.

Federal law prohibits gun ownership by anyone convicted of domestic violence against a spouse or someone with whom they cohabit or share a child. However, a dating partner convicted of the same crime can keep their guns under current law.

The bipartisan bill would close the loophole, something Democrats have long wanted to do. But as a compromise with Republicans, the proposal would allow dating partners convicted of crimes to get their guns back after five years if they avoid another conviction for a violent crime.

sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the lead GOP negotiator on the deal, dismissed Scott’s characterization of the stipulation on Thursday.

“That’s ridiculous,” Cornyn told HuffPost.

As Florida governor, Scott signed a series of gun restrictions after the 2018 Parkland shooting, when a 19-year-old massacred 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a legally purchased assault rifle. The reforms include a red flag law that allows law enforcement officers or family members to request a court order to take someone’s weapons if they pose an imminent threat. (Scott said the red flag provisions of the new bill would encourage states to violate gun owners’ rights, ostensibly in a way Florida doesn’t.)

Florida also raised the age for buying long guns from 18 to 21 — a reform Scott emphatically refused to endorse nationally in the wake of two recent mass shootings by 18-year-olds in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.

But while 19 states have laws addressing the boyfriend loophole, according to Everytown for gun safetyFlorida not. (The state bans domestic gun-owning abusers if they’re subject to a restraining order.)

As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott is in charge of efforts to get more Republicans elected to the Senate, and he is a member of the leadership team of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This puts Scott at odds with his GOP colleagues.

McConnell (R-Ky.) backs the bipartisan gun law, saying on Thursday it would “make our country safer without making it less free.”

Fourteen other Republicans have expressed support for the legislation, including several who are running for reelection this year, such as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana.

sen. Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va), another member of the GOP leadership who supports the bill, rejected the idea that it is lenient on criminals.

“I’m certainly not soft on crime,” Capito said.

Democrats, meanwhile, noted that restoring gun rights to those convicted of domestic violence was being pursued by Republicans.

“It seems strange and ironic to me to complain about a limited amount of time we were trying to widen and the Republicans trying to shorten it,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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