- President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted that he supported strengthening background checks for prospective gun buyers, emphasising mental-health treatment, and barring those under 21 from buying rifles.
- The comments came about a week after a shooting at a Florida high school shooting left 17 people dead.
President Donald Trump on Thursday said in a tweet that he would “strongly” push for several legislative changes intended to prevent mass shootings like last week’s in Florida that killed 17 people.
“I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health,” Trump said. “Raise the age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!”
Trump voiced support during a White House listening session on Wednesday for strengthening background checks for prospective gun buyers and adding resources for people with mental illnesses. He also suggested that arming teachers with concealed weapons would prevent more mass shootings.
On Tuesday, Trump announced he had directed the Justice Department to draft regulations banning “bump stock” devices, which the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre last year attached to his semiautomatic firearms to accelerate their rate of gunfire to mimic that of an automatic weapon.
The Trump administration in October directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to review its 2010 ruling that bump stocks are legal because they don’t technically turn a semiautomatic rifle into an automatic weapon.
But the relatively widespread support for banning bump stocks isn’t likely to translate to stricter gun-control legislation in Congress.
Here’s how the other gun-control measures Trump has voiced support for could fare.
Raising the minimum age to buy rifles
Trump’s tweet on Thursday was one of the first times he publicly backed barring people under 21 from purchasing assault rifles like the one used in the shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The idea has recently gained traction, with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also saying in a CNN town-hall meeting on Wednesday that he would back legislation raising the minimum age required to purchase certain guns.
Under federal law, a person must be 18 to purchase a rifle or shotgun from a licensed dealer.
“I absolutely believe that in this country, if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle,” Rubio said. “I will support a law that takes that right away.”
But it’s unclear how much support the idea will garner among Republicans. The National Rifle Association opposes it, arguing that such a law would deprive young people of “their constitutional right to self-protection.”
Students at the high school and their family members have also expressed bewilderment at the ease with which Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old charged in the shooting, purchased the AR-15 authorities say he used.
“If he’s not old enough to go buy a drink, buy a beer, he should not be able to buy a gun at 18 years old,” Cary Gruber, whose son survived the shooting, told Trump at the listening session.
“These are not weapons of defence; they are weapons of war,” said Samuel Zeif, a student at the school. “I still can’t fathom that I myself am able to purchase one.”
Comprehensive background checks
Strengthening background checks has proved one of the most popular solutions proposed so far, with Trump, his conservative allies, and even the NRA voicing support.
Trump has backed bipartisan legislation known as the Fix NICS Act, which would incentivise federal agencies to better report criminal records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Some – including Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a cosponsor of the bill – have said the legislation is still too mild to make a dent in reducing rates of gun violence but described it as a promising start.
“No one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic,” Murphy tweeted on Monday.
Trump pledged during the listening session to put a “very strong emphasis” on mental health in the wake of the Florida shooting, including by incorporating mental-health screenings into background checks.
“This was a person who was sick, very sick,” Trump said of Cruz, whom authorities have described as exhibiting violent, disturbing behaviour in the past.
Citing records from a 2016 investigation by the state’s Department of Children and Family Services after Cruz posted a self-harm video on Snapchat, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that agency investigators classified Cruz as “a vulnerable adult due to mental illness” but determined his risk level was low.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, the report said Cruz “was being treated for depression, had a behavioural disorder, and had been taking medication” for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The NRA has also backed barring people with mental illnesses from obtaining firearms.
Dana Loesch, an NRA spokeswoman, said at CNN’s town hall on Wednesday, “I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm, ever.”
The connection between mental health and mass shootings is complicated. Scientific studies have found that people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators.
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