Most FL lawmakers in Congress have taken in cash from gun rights groups

WASHINGTON — In the wake of two devastating mass shootings over the weekend, some members of Congress are imploring the U.S. Senate to vote on sweeping gun control legislation the U.S. House passed in February.

The killings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio are putting pressure on the GOP-led Senate to take up a bill to require federal criminal background checks on all gun sales, including private transactions. But the House bill has gone nowhere in the upper chamber.

Could gun rights money be part of the reason?

Advocates of gun rights pour cash into federal campaigns each cycle, with most of their cash going to Republicans.

In the 2018 cycle, for example, gun rights groups donated more than $4.5 million to federal candidates and parties, according to data from the Washington, D.C. -based Center for Responsive Politics, with 98 percent of that going to the GOP.

Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has received about $243,000 from gun rights groups, the fifth highest amount over the years among colleagues in the U.S. Senate, according to the center’s data.

The center tracks contributions from political action committees and individuals giving $200 or more, dating back to 1989.

Florida’s U.S. Senator Rick Scott, also a Republican, has gotten about $62,000, according to the center’s data. (Senators with the highest contributions from gun rights groups are Utah’s Mitt Romney, with $1.12-million, and Texas’ Ted Cruz, with $736,000.)

In Florida’s delegation, several members of the House of Representatives in Congress have gotten no documented contributions from gun rights groups.

But former Congressman Ron DeSantis — now Florida’s governor — received $27,779 from gun rights groups, the center’s data show. And of the current group of House members from Florida, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart took in the most — $40,450 from gun rights groups.

The House background check bill passed largely along partisan lines, but three Florida Republicans — Reps. Vern Buchanan, Diaz-Balart and Brian Mast — were among the eight GOP lawmakers who broke ranks to support it. All of Florida’s Democrats in the U.S. House voted in favor of the bill, with the exception of Rep. Lois Frankel, who did not vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement Monday urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring lawmakers back from recess to immediately pass the House legislation. The Senate isn’t scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 9.

“With messages of hate and the Senate sitting on legislation that could help, innocent people continue to die in their communities and our law enforcement officers put in harms way,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) wrote on Twitter. “Lawmakers, If you want to lead, LEAD!! If not, get the hell out of the way!”

But there appears to be no chance McConnell will grant their request. He called the weekend’s shootings “senseless” and “sickening” on Twitter, but did not mention any possible legislation.

President Trump wrote on Twitter Monday that “strong background checks” could perhaps be tied to immigration reform, but that combination is a nonstarter with his Democratic opponents. Speaking later on Monday, Trump didn’t offer specifics about what kind of legislation he’d be willing to support.

Here’s how much the current Florida lawmakers in Congress have received from gun rights and gun control groups during their congressional careers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Several lawmakers provided comments on Twitter, with links shown below.

U.S. Senate: 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R)

$243,179 from gun rights groups

Sen. Rick Scott (R)

$61,752 from gun rights groups

U.S. House: 

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-1st)

$11,150 from gun rights groups

Rep. Neal Dunn (R-2nd)

$7,250 from gun rights groups

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-3rd)

$18,410 from gun rights groups

Rep. John Rutherford (R-4th)

$7,200 from gun rights groups

Rep. Al Lawson (D-5th)

No donations documented from gun control or gun rights groups. 

Rep. Michael Waltz (R-6th)

$7,800 from gun rights groups

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-7th) 

$21,750 from gun control groups

Rep. Bill Posey (R-8th)

$16,800 from gun rights groups

Rep. Darren Soto (D-9th)

No donations documented from gun control or gun rights groups. 

Rep. Val Demings (D-10th)

$6,300 from gun control groups

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-11th)

$29,200 from gun rights groups

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-12th) 

$25,150 from gun rights groups

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13th)

$12,900 from gun rights groups

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-14th) 

No donations documented from gun control or gun rights groups. 

Rep. Ross Spano (R-15th)

$9,700 from gun rights groups

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-16th)

$21,037 from gun rights group

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17th)

$6,000 from gun rights groups

Rep. Brian Mast (R-18th)

$35,337 from gun rights groups

$1,000 from gun control groups

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19th)

$1,000 from gun rights groups

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-20th)

$5,950 from gun rights groups

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-21st)

No donations documented from gun control or gun rights groups. 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-22nd)

$8,000 from gun control groups

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-23rd)

$250 from gun control groups

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-24th)

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25th)

$40,450 from gun rights groups

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-26th)

$8,985 from gun control groups

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-27th) 

$2,500 from gun control groups

Florida Phoenix deputy editor Diane Rado contributed to this report

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