WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump supports efforts to strengthen federal background checks on those looking to purchase firearms, the White House said on Monday.
The announcement comes just five days after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 dead. The shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, has reportedly received mental-health treatment in the past.
The White House said the president was in talks with Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican who co-sponsored a bill last November that would require federal agencies and states to be more thorough in forwarding mental-health and criminal-conviction records and other information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
(Under US federal law, those convicted of a felony or subject to a domestic violence protective order, as well as people with mental illness – subject to certain conditions -, are prohibited from possessing a firearm)
“The president spoke to Senator Cornyn on Friday about the bipartisan bill he and (Democratic) Sen. (Chris) Murphy introduced to improve federal compliance with criminal background check legislation,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system.”
Trump pledged as a candidate to support the aims of the National Rifle Association, a lobbying group that opposes most restrictions on Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms.
But his backing for the Cornyn-Murphy bill would not incur the wrath of the NRA, which in November expressed support for that same proposal.
The bipartisan bill – introduced after it was revealed that the man who killed 26 people in a Texas church shooting last November had been convicted of domestic violence, a conviction that the Air Force failed to report – would provide incentives to states that upload conviction records into the NICS.
But it would not impose further restrictions on gun ownership.