WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress returned to work Monday after a ten-day break with advocates on both sides of the gun control debate demanding to be heard.
The Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and President Donald Trump’s subsequent calls on Congress to take action are expected to top the list of issues congressional members will face following their return.
In the wake of the deadly shooting in which 17 people were reportedly killed, the president called for a stricter background-check system for Congress to raise the minimum age for some gun purchases to 21. On Tuesday, the president also directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to draft regulations that would ban “bump stocks,” devices which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire at a faster pace.
“I think we’re going to have a great bill put forward very soon having to 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,” Trump said in a Fox News Channel interview Saturday night. “We are drawing up strong legislation right now having to do with background checks, mental illness. I think you will have tremendous support. It’s time. It’s time.”
The president also called for select, specially trained educators to carry weapons on school grounds.
“Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them,” he tweeted (https://tinyurl.com/y7so7rbf). “Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”
But anti-gun advocates claim those steps are simply not enough and are demanding that lawmakers ban AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles like those used in the shooting.
“The real test of President Trump and the Republican Congress is not words and empathy, but action,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y said on the matter. “Will President Trump and the Republicans finally buck the NRA and get something done?” Schumer asked. “I hope this time will be different.”
Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Sunday he planned to renew an effort with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks for commercial gun sales, but he said he was “skeptical” about proposals to raise the minimum age for civilians to buy guns.
“I’m very skeptical about that because the vast majority of 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds are law-abiding citizens who aren’t a threat to anyone,” Toomey told host NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) agreed with Toomey’s stance on implementing higher age restrictions and praised the president’s call to arm educators.
“Those are false senses of security,” he told “Meet the Press” on raising the age requirement to purchase certain firearms to 21 (https://tinyurl.com/ya2vgfsh). “And in 10 years we’re still going to have school shootings unless you propose real legislation like President Trump has proposed, that would allow teachers to be armed.”