Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled a three-point program to tighten gun restrictions on Sunday, galvanized by teenagers pushing for reforms across the country.
Schumer’s proposals include universal background checks, protective orders against potentially dangerous gun owners and banning assault weapons such as the AR-15 used in the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting last month that killed 17.
“This country cannot turn away from gun violence any longer. We have to do something real so that when kids go to school, they worry about their tests — they don’t worry about being shot. We’ve seen far too many instances,” said Schumer, standing with students outside of the Julia Richman Education Complex in Lenox Hill. “Now, you say, ‘What was different this time than last time?’ We have a secret weapon that’s going to make this happen . . . the young people across American are outraged.”
Schumer said millions of students across high schools and colleges are united on his program, noting the marches for gun control being planned on Washington, D.C., and in dozens of other cities. The pressure from students, Schumer said, will force legislation on the proposals to the floor.
“We will bring to the floor these three measures and force a vote,” said Schumer, who held up a sign with the #NeverAgain hashtag. “And once the political leaders, particularly Sen. [Mitch] McConnell and Speaker [Paul] Ryan, see the strength of this movement, I think they’ll have no choice but to put these bills on the floor and allow a vote.”
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, did not specifically comment on Schumer’s proposals, but touted the Fix NICS bill, which would ensure state and federal compliance with existing law on reporting criminal history records to the national background check system.
“Sen. McConnell is a co-sponsor of the Fix NICS bill (as is Sen. Schumer) and looks forward to its speedy passage,” Stewart said in an email.
Ryan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Universal background checks would close legal loopholes, like the gun show and internet sales loopholes, as part of an effort to prevent felons, those suffering from mental illness or spousal abusers from purchasing weapons, according to Schumer. Protection orders obtained through court would allow family members, friends or classmates to “take away” guns from owners who appear to being “going off the deep end,” like alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, the minority leader said.
Schumer chastised Republican leaders such as Ryan and McConnell, who he said were too beholden to the National Rifle Association (NRA). He expressed frustration with what he described as President Donald Trump’s recent flip-flopping on the issue of gun control, calling on the administration to take a firm stance.
“He had a good bipartisan meeting where he pledged to help us and then the next day he met with the NRA and backed off,” Schumer said of the president. “Backing off to a special interest group like the NRA is not leadership.”
The NRA and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Schumer was joined by about two dozen advocates and students who were inspired to speak out after the Florida shooting.
“My friends and I, along with countless students across New York City and across the country, really, stand united with the students of Parkland to say never again,” said Aidan Obstler, 17, a senior at Hunter College High School. “To politicians, no matter your party, no matter your state, I urge you to stand with us, to be on the right side of history. The NRA is not the future. All of us — we’re the future.”