Trump lays out 3 big changes to gun laws he will ‘strongly’ push Congress to enact

President Donald Trump hosts a listening session on gun violence with high school students, teachers and parents on Feb. 21, 2018.

Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

  • President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted that he supports strengthening background checks, emphasizing mental health treatment, and raising the age of rifle sales to 21.
  • The comments come in the wake of a high-school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

President Donald Trump on Thursday said in a tweet he intended to “strongly” push for several legislative changes intended to prevent mass shootings like last week’s massacre in Florida that killed 17.

“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 and adding more hospitals and resources for people with mental illnesses. He also suggested that arming teachers with concealed weapons would both stop and deter future mass shootings.

On Tuesday, Trump announced he had directed the Justice Department to draft regulations banning “bump stock” devices, which a shooter used to accelerate his gunfire during a massacre in Las Vegas last year.

But the relatively widespread support for banning bump stocks likely won’t translate to congressional action. The Trump administration in October directed its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review its 2010 ruling that found bump stocks were legal because they don’t technically turn a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic weapon.

Here’s how the other gun control measures Trump proposed could fare:

Raising the age to 21

Suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, legally purchased his AR-15.

Thomson Reuters

Trump’s tweet on Thursday was one of the first times he publicly backed raising the age at which someone could buy an assault rifle to 21 from 18.

The idea has gained slightly more traction than it has in the past, with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also saying in a CNN town hall on Wednesday that he would back legislation raising the purchase age.

“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 Republican support the idea will garner, as the National Rifle Association opposes it, arguing that such a law would deprive youth of “their constitutional right to self-protection.”

Florida shooting survivors and their family members have also expressed bewilderment at the ease with which the alleged gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, purchased his AR-15.

“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 defense, they are weapons of war. I still can’t fathom that I, myself, am able to purchase one,” survivor Samuel Zaif said.

Comprehensive background checks

Strengthening background checks have proved one of the most popular solutions proposed so far, with Trump, his conservative allies, and even the National Rifle Association voicing support.

Trump has backed bipartisan legislation known as the Fix NICS Act, which would incentivize federal agencies to better report criminal records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Some, including the Democratic senator who sponsored the Fix NICS Act, have said the legislation is still too mild to make a dent in gun violence, but that it’s a promising start.

“No one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic,” Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted.

Mental health

President Donald Trump speaks at the listening session he hosted at the White House on Wednesday for school shooting survivors and their families.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump pledged during the listening session to put a “very strong emphasis” on mental health in the wake of the Florida shooting, including incorporating mental health screenings into background checks.

“This was a person who was sick. Very sick,” Trump said of Cruz, who had a long history of disturbing, violent behavior and run-ins with law enforcement.

The NRA has also backed barring people with mental illnesses from obtaining firearms. Spokeswoman Dana Loesch 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.”

Yet the connection between mental health and mass shootings is complicated. Scientific studies have shown people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than they are to be the perpetrators.

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