President Donald Trump has called on politicians on both sides of the aisle to back stronger background checks for gun owners in the wake of the Florida high school massacre.
‘Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!’ Trump tweeted on Tuesday night.
This was the first time he has said he supports background checks for people looking to buy guns.
His push for stricter gun control comes as thousands of students and parents have called on him and his administration to make a change and prevent any further mass shootings.
The tweet also comes just hours after Trump took action to outlaw bump stocks like the one used in the Las Vegas massacre last fall.
‘I signed a memorandum directing the Attorney General to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,’ Trump said in the wake of a Florida massacre in which the killer did not use such a device.
Trump’s directive, which he pointedly brought up at a White House Medal of Valor ceremony, followed his press secretary’s announcement minutes before that the president had ordered his administration to look at ways it could unilaterally deter mass shootings like the one in Parkland.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also said that Trump had not closed the door on new gun controls, including an assault weapons ban that is unpopular with the president’s base.
Sanders said Tuesday at her first briefing since the shooting that Trump had also directed his Health and Human Services department to review its rule-making ability and to advise him on possible improvements it could make to the mental health system.
Trump’s tweet on Tuesday night about supporting background checks also came in response to a prior tweet from the President about ‘fake news’ regarding how the mainstream media is covering the Russia probe.
‘Bad ratings @CNN & @MSNBC got scammed when they covered the anti-Trump Russia rally wall-to-wall,’ he wrote.
‘They probably knew it was Fake News but, because it was a rally against me, they pushed it hard anyway. Two really dishonest newscasters, but the public is wise!
It’s not clear why his tweet about gun control was in response to this tweet – or how they were related.
Trump also doesn’t give any specific details about what the new background checks would entail, or if they would look at mental health.
One of the actions Trump took early into his presidency was to withdraw an Obama-era initiative making it more difficult for people with diagnoses of mental health to buy guns.
The president will hold a listening session with survivors of mass shootings, including the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, parents, and teachers. He’ll have a White House meeting the following day with state and local leaders.
After that, with the input of his administration, Sanders said that Trump will come up with concrete proposals on how to mitigate rampages like the one in Parkland.
‘Unfortunately, when horrific tragedies like this happen, everybody wants a quick and a simple answer, but there isn’t one.’ she told reporters. ‘There’s not a quick and there’s not a simple answer.’
Students are planning marches in cities all around the nation, including Washington, D.C. to demand action next month.
‘President Trump, I think it’s really important that you listen to us, We are your constituents, and you’re working for us. And kids are dead,’ one student organizer, Sofie Whitney, told CNN just after Trump’s bum stock announcement. ‘It’s really symbolic that we’re the ones doing it because we’re the ones who experienced it.’
Riding on a school bus at the time of the interview, Whitney, said Trump’s ban is ‘obviously, that’s a step forward.’
‘But there’s still so much more to be done,’ she said. ‘Because even though that would have stopped deaths in Las Vegas, it still wouldn’t have helped when it came to my school.’
The gesture to ban bump stocks immediately came under attack from Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein, who is a co-sponsor of legislation in the Senate to ban bump stocks.
‘I’m glad President Trump finally understands that bump stocks should be illegal. Now he needs to follow through with action and support our bill to ban these deadly devices,’ she said in a statement.
Feinstein said that ATF currently does not have the authority to do what Trump directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do.
‘The agency made this clear in a 2013 letter to Congress, writing that “stocks of this type are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes.” ‘
ATF is already in the middle of a rule-making process for bump stocks. A comment period on the proposed regulations ended several weeks ago.
On Tuesday, Feinstein said that the rule-making process could be tied up in court for years if ATF follows through on Trump’s direction ‘and that would mean bump stocks would continue to be sold.’
‘Legislation is the only answer,’ she stated. ‘Words are one thing, Mr. President, but we need meaningful action. If you want these devices off the street, call congressional Republicans and tell them to stop blocking our bill.’
Trump said Tuesday at the White House event that he had directed his AG to ‘clarify whether certain bump stock devices, like the one used in Las Vegas, are illegal under current law’ and that review began in December.
‘I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized very soon,’ Trump said Tuesday from the White House’s East Room.
The president had come under scrutiny, though, in the days since the Florida shooting for his relative silence on the issue of gun violence after he failed to mention firearms, aside from a reference to gunfire that took place at Marjory Stoneman, in a national address the day after.
He insisted at the White House event on Tuesday afternoon that school safety is a ‘top priority’ of his administration.
‘The key in all of these efforts, as I said in my remarks the day after the shooting, is that we cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference,’ he said. ‘We must actually make a difference.’
The White House on Monday said that Trump is mulling legislation to strengthen existing background check and federal firearms laws in the wake of last week’s Florida massacre.
Sanders said Trump has been in touch with the Republican author of a Senate bill that would provide the carrot and the stick to states and federal agencies to provide better comply with background check requirements and those conversations are ongoing.
‘While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,’ she said in a Monday statement.
Sanders did not go into further detail on Tuesday on what specifically the president would be willing to support when it comes to background checks or other gun controls.
‘But we want to make sure that we’re addressing the problem. And we want to make sure that we’re meeting and talking with as many people that not only are affected but that play in this process as possible,’ she stated.
The president’s spokeswoman suggested that Trump might even be willing to endorse gun control legislation that has been repudiated by Republicans like an assault weapons ban.
‘I don’t have any specific announcements, but we haven’t closed the door on any front,’ she said. ‘Again, that’s the next several days and weeks will be — to have conversations and to see what this process looks like, and to see what areas we can help make changes to, and in what places that we can do better.’
The Senate legislation that the White House has said that Trump would be willing to back looks to ‘fix’ the National Instant Criminal Background Check System legislation has the backing of key senators on both sides of the aisle.
On the Republican side, it is being pushed by Sen. John Cornyn, the majority whip. Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, whose state is home to Newtown, is a sponsor, as well.
GOP Sen. James Lankford, another sponsor of the bill, said Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that the legislation primarily upgrades ‘our background check system to make sure that all the information is actually getting in there.’
‘We have a lot of warning signs that were out there, and people in Parkland, and all across the country, have every reason to be grieved and incredibly furious,’ Lankford said.
The senator said that Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s file should have reflected social service visits to his home, his expulsion from school, the violent posts he made online and warnings people who were concerned about him sent into the FBI.
‘All the warning signs were there. The community did all the things the community should do to engage. They saw something, they said something, and nothing was done,’ the Oklahoma senator said.
Cornyn has not commented on the White House’s suggestion Monday that it would be willing to get behind his bill, depending on how the finalized text is worded.
Murphy said in a tweet that the statement made for an ‘interesting morning’ and the president’s support for the legislation ‘is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly.’
The Democrat crusader for gun control legislation also said, ‘No one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic.’
A progressive organization with the sole purpose of cracking down on firearms laws they see as too lax likewise said that the measure alone was not to make a dent in gun violence.
‘If all Congress does is pass the Fix NICS Act, then lawmakers will have failed to meet this moment and do their job,’ Everytown for Gun Safety said.
The group said that Americans across the country are ‘demanding that Congress finally get serious and meet this moment with robust action to reduce gun violence’ and the Cornyn-Murphy bill ‘is a small step forward.’
‘Congress needs to do much more, starting with legislation to require criminal background checks on every gun sale — supported by 95 percent of Americans,’ the group said.
Background checks are not required when firearms are sold by private sellers, including at gun shows. The exemption has given rise to the term ‘gun show loophole’ for that reason.
Legislators unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation in the Senate placing new restrictions on firearms sales in 2013 after a mentally ill man gunned down 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Murphy’s home state.
Then-President Barack Obama aggressively chased the reforms but none of the measures earned the required 60 votes in the bitterly divided upper chamber.
An assault weapons ban championed by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and background check legislation spearheaded by Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, each failed.
Lashing out at his predecessor’s party on Twitter on Saturday evening, Trump said, ‘Just like they don’t want to solve the DACA problem, why didn’t the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House & Senate during the Obama Administration.
‘Because they didn’t want to, and now they just talk!’ the Republican asserted.
Democrats were in control of the House and Senate for Obama’s first two years in office. They chose to prioritize health care reform in those years, ultimately passing Obamacare.
Obama’s gun control push in his second term, when Democrats controlled the Senate but not the House, did not pan out. The president consequently took as much executive action as the White House believed he legally had the power to in order to enact some new firearms regulations.
Republicans lawmakers rolled back an Obama-era rule that was intended to make it more difficult for people with mental health issues to purchase guns at the beginning of 2017.
Democrats were swift to point out on Thursday that it was Trump who signed the legislation containing the scale-back into law after the Republican president said mental health was the issue.
Trump in a tweet also appeared to blame peers of Cruz’s and adults around him who knew that something was off about his behavior and did not contact the police.
A separate message that Trump sent over the weekend that ridiculed federal authorities for not acting on a tip upset students who survived the shooting because it made reference to the FBI’s investigation into collusion between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
A student claiming to be a survivor of the shooting said in response:’17 of my classmates are gone. That’s 17 futures, 17 children, and 17 friends stolen. But you’re right, it always has to be about you. How silly of me to forget. #neveragain” ‘
Trump visited Broward Health North hospital on Friday evening and spoke to two victims of the Parkland high school shooting behind closed doors.
‘It’s sad something like that could happen,’ Trump said of the massacre that snuffed out 17 young lives.
The president and first lady also stopped by the Broward County Sheriff’s office in Fort Lauderdale.
He was joined there by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Sen. Marco Rubio, who caught a ride on Air Force One with the president.
Scott has called on FBI Director Chris Wray to resign, but the White House said Tuesday that Trump still has confidence in the DOJ official.
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