Rubio: Semi-automatic weapon ban 'well outside the mainstream'
© Greg Nash

Republican Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit GOP senator: We should accept Trump's 'apology' for Russian election interference comments Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws MORE (Fla.) on Thursday doubled down on his comments opposing a ban on semi-automatic weapons, saying the idea is "well outside the mainstream."

"Banning all semi-auto weapons may have been popular with the audience at #CNNTownHall, but it is a position well outside the mainstream," Rubio tweeted. 

Rubio garnered criticism from an audience largely composed of gun control advocates during a televised event on Wednesday night, where he responded to survivors of the recent Florida school shooting.

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The senator said at the event that the only way to eliminate loopholes in existing legislation on semi-automatic weapons would be to ban them completely.

“The issue is not the loopholes. It’s the problem that once you start looking at how easy it is to get around it, you would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold,” he said, and was cut off by applause from the crowd. 

He then received jeers when he clarified that "my colleagues do not support banning every semi-automatic rifle sold in America," which would include "virtually every rifle sold in America today."

Rubio on Thursday drilled down on the differences between some existing state bans on assault weapons and the idea of banning all semi-automatic weapons, a broad category of guns that facilitate quick reloading.

Rubio tweeted that a ban on all semi-automatic weapons — a category that includes most rifles and handguns on the market today — "goes well beyond" any gun control measures that the two Democratic lawmakers who were also at the CNN town hall would support. 

A recent poll from Quinnipiac University shows that 67 percent of respondents support a federal ban on assault weapons, a category that covers some types of semi-automatic rifles. A Gallup poll from October, before the most recent mass shooting, shows 48 percent in favor of banning assault weapons.

There is little recent polling on broadly banning semi-automatic guns. A Morning Consult/The New York Times poll from July 2016 showed 63 percent support for "banning the sale and ownership of all semi-automatic and automatic firearms” as a means to stop gun violence.

The suspected shooter in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that occurred last week used a semi-automatic AR-15 to kill 17 people. The AR-15 style rifle is commonly included in assault weapon bans proposed at the state level, including recent legislation voted down in the Florida House.

Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchHouse votes to disavow carbon tax GOP congressional candidate tells Parkland father to stop 'exploiting' his daughter's death Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House MORE (D-Fla.), who was also at the CNN event and vowed to introduce an assault weapons ban in Congress next week, responded to Rubio with a challenge: “Show me examples of when these weapons are used in defense, because I can show you hundreds of times they are used to kill innocent Americans.”

-Updated 1:44 p.m.