President Donald Trump is insisting that Congress will respond legislatively to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“I have spoken to many senators and congressmen today, yesterday, the day before, and I think we’ll have a great bill put forward very soon strong do with background checks, having to do with getting rid of certain things and keeping other things, and perhaps we’ll do something on age,” he said Saturday in an interview with Fox New.
It was not clear what bill Trump was referring to.
The nation has been stirred by the calls of young high school student activists demanding reform and Trump is slated to meet with senators on Tuesday to discuss ways to address gun violence.
However, Capitol Hill is not expected to move immediately on any number of bills addressing gun violence, mental health and background checks that are already available. For one, lawmakers are returning from a week-long recess, and leaders would have to discuss what their rank and file would support. There’s also a scheduling challenge in the House due to the shortened work week to honor the late Rev. Billy Graham.
Still, there are the rumblings of movement.
Some Republican rank-and-file members have voiced support for various gun control measures.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., all said they’d support raising the rifle purchasing age to 21. And Army veteran Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., said he would support an assault weapons ban.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer expressed optimism last week that shifts among individual Republicans might lead to policy changes.
“Republicans in Congress and in the White House, led by President Trump, have held fast to the belief that better laws won’t curb the epidemic of gun violence in this country. That they are now reversing that belief and exploring policy changes to curb gun violence is a welcome shift,” he said.
Here’s a look at some of the existing measures lawmakers could consider.
IMPROVE EXISTING DATA COLLECTION FOR BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM
The “FIX NICS” act is a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, Senate Democrats’ leading voice on gun safety. It would strengthen the existing background check system using a stick-and-carrot approach to get federal agencies to do a better job in uploading relevant records to the system, but it would not expand background checks at places like gun shows.
While this bill has probably the best chance of getting to the president’s desk, a House-passed version was attached to a bill Democrats consider a non-starter: concealed carry reciprocity, allowing concealed permit carriers to bring their weapons across state lines. Schumer has indicated the concealed carry provision makes this bill unacceptable to his party: “We strongly urge our Republican colleagues in the Senate to avoid the cynical and dangerous approach that the House took with this legislation,” he said in a statement.
GRANTS FOR SCHOOL SAFETY/AWARENESS
This bill, the “Stop School Violence Act,” was introduced before the shooting happened. It’s a bipartisan bill (6 of 11 cosponsors are Republicans) and would create grants to help schools put together programs for teachers and school administrators – even students – to detect warning signs and report it to local law enforcement. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., whose district includes Parkland, is planning to hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the measure.
RIFLE PURCHASE AGE INCREASE
Two days after the Parkland shooting, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced she planned on introducing a bill which would require all firearms purchases from gun dealers to be restricted to individuals who are at least 21 years old. While Trump and a few Senate Republicans have expressed support, the NRA is opposed. Cornyn said last week he doesn’t think this bill can get 60 votes in the Senate.
BUMP STOCK BAN
Sen. Feinstein introduced one version of this measure in October after the Las Vegas shooting. It would ban the sale and possession of bump-stock equipment, which that shooter possessed and allowed him to simulate the action of a fully automatic rifle.
There are two bipartisan measures in the House as well. Those bills never got a vote, as Republicans and the National Rifle Association insist that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has the authority to regulate bump stocks. Some states have passed their own bump stock bans.
REVISITING COMPREHENSIVE BACKGROUND CHECKS
Sen. Pat Toomey said over the recess that he would re-introduce the bill he and Sen. Joe Manchin co-wrote after the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. It would expand background checks on firearm purchases including on unlicensed gun-show dealers and online sales. That bill failed narrowly in the Senate, 54-46, last time. Toomey suggested yesterday during a Sunday show appearance that the 60 votes needed could be there if the Senate tries again. “I think there are some members who were not supportive in the past and are reconsidering.”
TRAINING AND ARMING TEACHERS
Trump has made it clear in recent days that he thinks teachers should be able to voluntarily receive training and carry a firearm in school to protect their students and receive yearly bonuses as a result.
“If we would have had some great teachers that were gun adept — meaning really understood weaponry and guns, if they had concealed permits, you wouldn’t have this problem today,” he said, referring to school shootings. But several Republicans including Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have indicated they wouldn’t support this effort.