But rather than throwing his support behind an effort to expand and toughen background checks on those buying firearms, the White House appeared to be signaling its interest in a more modest bipartisan proposal introduced last fall by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
The bill, titled the Fix NICS Act, seeks to address flaws in the national criminal background check database that were exposed after the Texas church shooting in November. It would require states to produce an implementation plan focused on uploading all gun purchaser information to the background check system, and hold federal agencies accountable if they fail to record it.
The legislation has support from both gun control advocates and the National Rifle Association ― a rarity in the nation’s divisive gun control debate ― but it has yet to receive a vote in the Senate. House Republicans, meanwhile, paired the bill with a separate, more conservative measure in December that would force states to allow people to carry concealed guns in public.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Trump spoke to Cornyn on Friday about the bill, which she said would “improve federal compliance with criminal background check legislation.”
Murphy said in a tweet on Monday that Trump’s willingness to look at the issue of background checks is “another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly.” But, the fierce gun control advocate added, lawmakers still need to do far more to address the problem.
Trump is expected to hold a listening session with high school students this week following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The community is less than an hour away from the president’s luxury golf club, where he spent the weekend and reportedly polled members on whether he ought to champion gun control measures in the wake of the massacre.
A number of Parkland students who survived the shooting have been outspoken in their calls for stricter gun legislation in the wake of Friday’s shooting, pleading with lawmakers to take action to address gun violence. One group is even organizing a nationwide march next month to demand lawmakers make ending gun violence a priority.
The White House has not yet said whether the president’s listening session with students will include any Parkland teens.
In his only tweet about the shooting over the weekend, Trump criticized the FBI for missing many signals sent out by the suspect and alleged that the Russia investigation had left the agency unable to prevent the shooting.
This has been updated to include Murphy’s response.