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LOS ANGELES — Political leaders reacted mostly with expressions of respect as hundreds of thousands of Americans marched in favor of gun control on Saturday. But there was little sign that the politicians who currently oppose new limits on guns had changed their minds.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a staunch supporter of the National Rifle Association, acknowledged the peaceable intent of the students who led the March for Our Lives, which was a reaction to the shooting in which 17 people died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in his own state, in the town of Parkland. But he expressed doubt that the students were marching for anything useful.
Rubio today said via Twitter that he supported the young people’s right to march, but he also said many people see gun control legislation “as an infringement” of the Second Amendment and believe that more restrictions on firearms “won’t prevent shootings.”
“Protest is [a] good way of making a point, but making a change will require both sides finding common ground," he said.
Rubio also released a longer statement in which he characterized the goal of marchers as “a gun ban” that would not make a difference. He expressed support for “the Stop School Violence Act, improvements to our background check system, propelling CDC [Centers for Disease Control] studies on gun violence and now, a ban on bump stocks.”
He also advocated for taking guns “away from dangerous people.”
On Saturday a number of students at the Washington march, led by Parkland student Sarah Chadwick, wore $1.05 price tags. They calculated that Rubio has received $3,303,355 from the NRA, which comes out to $1.05 for each of Florida's estimated 3,140,167 students.
“Is that all we’re worth to these politicians?” Chadwick asked said during the rally.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a pro-gun Republican who has supported age limits on the purchase of rifles, said via Twitter today that he's "proud of what we accomplished in Florida to make our schools safer." He pointed to his signing of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which seeks to strip weapons from the hands of those with demonstrated mental illness. But Scott opposes the more widespread bans on gun access supported by many of the speakers at Saturday's rallies.
President Donald Trump, a strong Second Amendment supporter, did not issue a tweet about the demonstrations, though he did use Twitter to send his "thoughts and prayers" to victims of a terror attack in France yesterday. The White House, however, released an official statement applauding "the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has also opposed gun restrictions, did not respond formally to the march, though there was a demonstration outside his Houston office during which protesters chanted, "Where's Ted Cruz? Where's Ted Cruz?"
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted that he "might not agree" with all the positions held by marchers, but he urged Americans to "learn from them."
"They're giving you an example of how to do something about the issues you care about," he wrote.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Twitter that hearing students speak today "is a reminder of what is possible when our future is in the right hands."
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, marched in Los Angeles and appeared to side solidly with gun-control advocates. "We need background checks," she said as she walked. "We need an assault weapons ban. And Congress needs to have the courage these kids have to act.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York estimated that 175,000 people took to the streets of his city. He tweeted: "You have to know when a revolution is starting."