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.
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.
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.