President Donald Trump elicited howls of outrage when, during a weekend tweetstorm, he blasted the FBI for being too focused on Russia to prevent the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 students dead last week.
In a series of tweets, students at the school blasted the president for selfishly using the tragedy for political purposes and blamed him and the broader Republican Party for resisting gun control laws that might’ve stopped the shooter, who had a history of mental illness, from purchasing the AR-15 assault rifle he used during the attack.
Students at the school and others affected by the shooting are calling on Congress to act to improve gun control restrictions, per the Hill.
And in a shocking reversal, Trump appears to have listened to their comments because the White House is saying it’s “supportive” of stricter background-check requirements, according to NPR.
Trump reportedly spoke with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who is co-sponsoring a bill with Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy to tighten federal background check requirements, saying that the White House is “supportive” of strengthening background checks.
— errol barnett (@errolbarnett) February 19, 2018
News of the White House’s tentative change of heart comes as students are planning a nationwide walkout of students on April 20, the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine massacre.
“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call B.S,” student Emma Gonzalez said at a rally Saturday.
“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S.”
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Republicans said they were “open” to tighter restrictions on gun ownership or background checks, only to quietly drop their support once the tragedy receded from the news cycle. A bill to ban sales of bump stocks, which the Las Vegas shooter used to convert his assault rifles into essentially fully automatic weapons, quietly died after Republican lawmakers and even the NRA tentatively embraced it in the aftermath of the shooting…
Murphy and Cornyn introduced their bill late last year, according to a Washington Post report published at the time. Though it is narrow in focus, it’s primary aim is to close loopholes and fix lapses that helped enable the shooter who massacred two dozen people at a small Texas church last year to purchase the weapon despite a prior conviction for domestic violence.
The deficiencies of the NICS database have come into sharp focus since that attack. The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelly, was able to legally purchased the weapon because the Air Force never reported his conviction to the background-check system.
Indeed, the NICS database is missing millions of these records, according to an estimate by the National Rifle Association, citing a 2013 report from the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics that found “at least 25% of felony convictions . . . are not available.”
Last year, Trump overturned an Obama-era regulation that made it more difficult for people with mental illness to purchase guns.