Fla. Republican congressman, a veteran and NRA member, backs assault weapons ban
STUART, Fla. (WPEC) — A powerful political bombshell from a Florida congressman has him breaking ranks from the GOP as he calls for a ban on assault weapons.
Friday night, Rep. Brian Mast, who represents the state's 18th congressional district, told WPEC’s Paul Mueller in an exclusive interview about his decision to write an op-ed piece for Friday’s New York Times entitled “I am Republican. I Appreciate Assault Weapons. And I Support a Ban.”
Mast told WPEC that it was the “right thing to do," not only for his constituents but for people across the country, as well as his three young children.
Mast is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and, although he says he appreciates assault weapons, he now wants to ban them.
“Just because you can’t do everything, that doesn’t mean you don’t do something,” Mast said from his offices in Stuart late Friday night.
Mast may not be in line with the Republican Party, but felt he had to take a stand and this was the time to do it.
“I am about saving a life,” Mast said. “If I can save a life, I’m going to do it and I’m not going to worry about being a casualty. That’s how I have lived my life.”
This comes on the heels of the deadly school shooting in Parkland that left 17 students and educators dead and 14 others injured.
As a veteran, Mast said has seen so many lost in war zones that he stopped counting and now he doesn’t want to see schools become battlefields.
“Trust me,” Mast said. “I’m not going out there and making friends by doing this. I’m saying this because I believe we have a real chance to save lives.”
Mast has been a member of the National Rifle Association since he was a little boy. These days, he told us he carries a 9 millimeter for protection.
Before becoming a politician, Mast spent 12 years in the Army as a bomb technician. In 2012, he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both of his legs and a finger but thanks to his father, he never lost his determination.
The rifle Mast used was similar to the one used in Parkland and several others school shootings, the AR-15.
Mast said he can’t support the weapon he used to defend Americans as it’s being used to kill kids he swore to protect and defend.
At the end of the interview, Congressman Mast showed WPEC cards he received from children.
“[They] touch me personally because I lived there, touches me personally because I know people there, and still know people there in the community, and it touches me personally because I do have kids that are saying thank you for keeping us safe,” Mast said. “I want to make sure I fill that promise.”
Mast wants to define assault or tactical weapons and then ban them, and he is also pushing for more comprehensive mandatory background checks, banning bump stocks, and raising the age to buy certain firearms.
Mast said if asked, he would return any contributions from the NRA.