Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at the Georgia Republican Convention on May 15, 2015. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at the Georgia Republican Convention on May 15, 2015.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at the Georgia Republican Convention on May 15, 2015.

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 27, 2015

Did Marco Rubio say felons should be barred from voting but should get their guns back?

A Facebook meme suggests that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., believes convicted felons should regain their right to own a gun but not the right to vote.

The meme, sent to us by a reader, presents two quotes purportedly by Rubio. The first, dated March 16, is, "No, felons should not have their voting rights restored even after they have served their sentence." The second quote, from May 6, says, "Of course, convicted felons should be allowed to own guns after they have done their time. It is their constitutional right."

The claim was attributed to the Facebook community group "Stop the world, the teabaggers want off."

We’ll note right off the bat that the group’s Facebook page cops to being a primarily satirical site. It says, "This page is for entertainment purposes. It is NOT meant to be taken seriously. It is primarily satire and parody with a mix of political memes and messages."

Still, casual Facebook users are unlikely to see this bit of context and could easily take the quotes in the meme at face value, so we’ll check the substance of the meme anyway. We searched Nexis and Google for the quotes and did not find any instances in which Rubio said those words. (We contacted spokespersons for Rubio and did not get a response. We also tried to contact the "Teabaggers" group via Twitter and Facebook but did not hear back.)

Felons and voting rights

States have the power to decide how -- or whether -- to restore the rights of felons to vote once they have served their time. (Maine and Vermont allow felons to vote while in prison.)

In Florida in 2007 under then-Gov. Charlie Crist, the Cabinet agreed to relax the rules to make it easier for felons to regain their civil rights, including the right to vote. The Cabinet set rules for three levels of offenders who could apply to get their rights back, including the requirement that they had to finish their sentences.

At the time, Rubio was the speaker of the House, but since the Cabinet set the rules, the Legislature had no official role.

When Rubio ran against Crist for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, he attacked his record on restoration of voting rights.

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In 2009, Rubio said on Morning Joe that Crist "restored the rights of felons to vote automatically here in Florida." The following year, Rubio said Crist "worked with ACORN and groups like that to give felons voting rights in Florida." (ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, dissolved in 2010 in the wake of a video sting that showed ACORN employees telling people posing as a pimp and a prostitute how to conceal their criminal activities. The group advocated for increased voter access, but there was no proof that Crist worked with ACORN on his plan to restore voting rights to felons, so we rated that claim False.)

In both instances, Rubio clearly sounded like he was criticizing Crist. It’s not a big leap to think that he is personally against allowing felons to regain their right to vote, but his words fall short of making that clear.

The issue of restoring voting rights to certain felons has come up in the U.S. Senate the past two years but it hasn’t received a vote, so we don’t know Rubio’s position on it. The Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act of 2015 would allow citizens to vote in any federal election even if they had been convicted of a non-violent criminal offense unless the individual was in jail or on probation.

The bipartisan duo of Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican presidential candidate from Kentucky, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, are the measure’s co-sponsors. Last year, Paul co-sponsored a similar bill with U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida. Paul, who has made efforts to court black voters, has said that stripping voting rights from felons is a form of voter suppression and has disproportionately harmed black voters.

Felons and gun ownership

Under federal law, individuals with felony convictions lose their right to own guns, but states can restore these rights, a 2011 New York Times investigation found. In some states, felons can only regain their right to bear arms if they are pardoned, while others allow certain felons to regain their rights after five to 20 years. In Florida, felons are eligible to apply eight years after the completion of their sentence.

But we could not find any statements in which Rubio directly talked about whether convicted felons should be able to regain their right to own a gun.

Our ruling

A Facebook meme says Rubio said that "felons should not have their voting rights restored" but that "convicted felons should be allowed to own guns after they have done their time."

The meme was posted by a site that describes itself as satirical, and we found no evidence that Rubio actually said the words attributed to him. While Rubio has spoken critically in the past about felons regaining voting rights, he does not appear to have taken a stance on the restoration of felons’ gun rights.

Rubio didn’t say these words, so we rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook, "Stop the world, the teabaggers want off," Accessed May 19, 2015

Stop, the world the teabaggers want off, Meme about Marco Rubio, May 13, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio, "Why I support the Second Amendment -- and Democrats should too," April 4, 2013

The Center for Voting and Democracy, "Felon disenfranchisement," Accessed May 19, 2015

YouTube, "Marco Rubio on MSNBC’s Morning Joe," Oct. 27, 2009

Congress.gov, "Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act of 2015," Feb. 11, 2015

Florida Commission on Offender Review (previously known as the Florida Parole Commission), Rules of Executive Clemency of Florida, Approved Sept. 10, 1975

Florida Commission on Offender Review, Rules of Executive Clemency, Approved 2007

Florida Commission on Offender Review , "Status update: Restoration of Civil Rights (RCR) cases granted 2009 and 2010," July 1, 2011

Florida Commission on Offender Review, Executive Clemency Timeline, 1991-2014

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Florida restoration of civil rights/firearm privileges, March 28, 2015

New York Times, "Felons finding it easy to regain gun rights," Nov. 13, 2011

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "Florida leaders echo national debate about gun control laws," Dec. 17, 2012

PolitiFact Florida, "Rick Scott says Charlie Crist favors violent felons immediately getting their right to vote restored," Oct. 27, 2014

PolitiFact Florida, "Marco Rubio says Charlie Crist worked with ACORN to restore voting rights for felons,"March 29, 2010

PolitiFact Florida, "Dan Gelber says Charlie Crist got automatic restoration of felon rights for 1st time in Florida history,"Dec. 12, 2013

PolitiFact Florida, "Voting rights activist says one-quarter of disenfranchised felons in U.S. live in Florida," Jan. 23, 2014

PolitiFact Florida, "Mark Kelly says 94 percent of Floridians support universal background checks," April 2, 2013

PolitiFact Florida, "Charlie Crist correct that Rubio supported gun restrictions," Feb. 26, 2010

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