WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged a diverse group of lawmakers - some who want more gun restrictions, others averse to gun control - to come up with comprehensive legislation to prevent school shootings following the nation’s most recent massacre.
Trump has been cautiously considering changes for gun laws, pressured by a wave of student activism after 17 people were shot to death at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
The Republican president, endorsed by the powerful gun lobby National Rifle Association in his 2016 campaign, has been wary of angering voters who oppose any curbs on gun ownership, particularly ahead of the November elections in which his party’s control of Congress will be at stake.
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But on Wednesday, at the start of the fourth free-flowing gun policy discussion he has had in a week, Trump pushed Congress to go big on the bill. He said he told NRA officials, “It’s time. We’ve got to stop this nonsense. It’s time.”
Trump spoke approvingly of expanding background checks for gun buyers and raising the legal age to buy rifles to 21 from 18, saying he would give serious consideration to an idea rejected by the NRA.
“We’re going to come up with some ideas,” he said. “Hopefully we can put those ideas in a very bipartisan bill. It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everybody can support, as opposed to - you know - 15 bills, everybody’s got their own bill.”
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Seventeen senators and representatives were invited to Wednesday’s session, a mix of Republicans and Democrats espousing a wide spectrum of views on how to stop school shootings.
Previous roundtables - all open to television cameras - included students and parents, law enforcement officials, and state governors.
Ahead of the White House meeting, several Republican senators said there was little consensus in their ranks on how to address the issue or whether to even move ahead on debating a bill on improving the background check database for gun buyers.
“I didn’t hear a consensus. I don’t know what the leader (Senator Mitch McConnell) is going to do,” Senator John Kennedy said after a Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill.
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Kennedy, who has expressed concerns about the background check bill, said there was always the chance that nothing would happen.
At the White House, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Trump that previous efforts to pass background check bills have faced big obstacles because of the NRA, and warned him against underestimating the group’s political clout.
“The reason that nothing’s gotten done here is because the gun lobby has had a veto power over any legislation that comes before Congress,” Murphy said.
He said bills could pass the Senate with Trump’s backing.
“Mr. President, it’s going to have to be you that brings Republicans to the table on this because right now the gun lobby will stop it in its tracks,” Murphy said.
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