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Trump signals support for improved background checks for guns

President Donald Trump gestures to the media as

President Donald Trump gestures to the media as he leaves the White House, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Washington. Credit: AP / Manuel Balce Ceneta

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, amid growing outcry over last week’s deadly shooting at a South Florida high school, signaled his support Monday for bipartisan legislation aimed at bolstering federal background checks on gun buyers.

In the days following Wednesday’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Trump called for the nation to “tackle” the issue of mental health, but avoided talking about the contentious issue of gun control.

On Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a statement to reporters, said Trump had spoken to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about a measure Cornyn has co-sponsored with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) that seeks to improve the flow of information between state and federal agencies and the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,” Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that came as the president spent the weekend and part of Presidents Day at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate before traveling back to Washington, D.C.

Cornyn and Murphy’s proposal would require federal and state officials to report criminal records to the NICS, and would seek to penalize agencies that fail to comply. The measure, which has the support of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, was introduced last fall, in the wake of a deadly shooting at a rural Texas church house, where 26 people were killed.

The alleged shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, had been court-martialed by the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child, but the offenses and Kelley’s subsequent discharge from the military for “bad conduct,” which would have disqualified him from purchasing a gun, were never reported to the NICS database.

Murphy, in a Monday tweet said Trump’s support of the bill, “is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly,” but said the measure could only go so far in preventing the nation’s spate of mass shootings.

“No one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic,” Murphy said.

The president and Congress alike have faced mounting calls to reform the nation’s gun laws in the wake of the nation’s latest mass shooting — 17 students and school faculty were shot dead on Valentine’s Day at the Florida high school after a 19-year-old gunman, with a long history of mental health and behavioral issues, opened fire on students at his former school with an AR-15 rifle he purchased legally.

Students at the school have since vowed to march on Washington and have called for a nationwide protest in other cities on March 24 to demand stricter gun purchasing requirements and background checks. Other student-driven efforts being promoted on social media include a national school walkout on March 14 to mark one month after the Douglas High School shooting, and a call from the Women’s March organization for a walkout on April 20, marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, where 12 students and a teacher were killed at the Colorado school.

On Monday afternoon, dozens of students from the Washington, D.C., area staged a “die-in” in front of the White House, lying down side by side as they held signs that read “Love your kids not your guns” and “Am I next?”

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