Trump Considers Improving Background-Check System For Gun Purchases

Feb 20, 2018
Originally published on February 21, 2018 1:49 am
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What gun laws, if any, are Republicans really willing to embrace? President Trump yesterday did say through his press secretary that he's open to improving the background check system for gun purchases, and there is a bipartisan bill in Congress that would do that. That's a start, anyway. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley continues our discussion. Hey there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: So the president plans listening sessions, we're told, this week? Who's he listening to?

HORSLEY: He's going to be hearing from students and teachers tomorrow, and then state and local officials on Thursday. Obviously, some of the loudest voices we've heard in recent days for gun control have been coming from some of the students who survived last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The bipartisan bill you mentioned is sponsored by John Cornyn of Texas and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and it specifically aims to make sure disqualifying information about would-be gun buyers actually makes its way into the federal database. Of course the other big loophole in the background check system is that not all gun purchases are subject to that system. Congress looked at changing that back in 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, and it failed to get 60 votes in the Senate.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask another thing, Scott. So the president is going to listen to people, presumably including some who favor gun control, but we've seen some of this before. I'm thinking about the immigration debate where the president was very sympathetic to people who wanted support for those who've been brought to the country as children and didn't have legal status. He talked about a bill of love. And then he listened to more conservative voices on that, and there still isn't a deal. Who else is he going to have to listen to as the Republican Party leader on this issue?

HORSLEY: Well, he's probably going have to listen to the people that brought him there, and that includes a lot of strong supporters of the Second Amendment. This president was elected with strong backing from the National Rifle Association, and when he spoke at that group's annual convention last year, he said, you came through for me, I'm going to come through for you. So I think it's unlikely we're going to see a big push for gun control in Washington. A more fruitful avenue for advocates of gun control may be state capitols like Tallahassee. There have been a handful of states that have adopted laws that allow families and, in some cases, law enforcement to petition to at least temporarily keep guns away from people with a troubled history. So that may be where we see more action, at the state level.

INSKEEP: And we are told, of course, that some students from the high school in Parkland, Fla., are on a bus, taking the very, very long bus ride up to the state capital of Tallahassee in Florida to talk about gun control. Now, let me ask about something else happening today, Scott Horsley. The president is set to attend a Medal of Valor ceremony to honor law enforcement. Hasn't he been battling an awful lot with law enforcement the last few days?

HORSLEY: Well, yes. Although, you know, Donald Trump made support for law enforcement - like support for the military or the Border Patrol - a sort of cultural touchstone of his campaign. So he likes to present himself as a champion of the men and women in uniform. Where that stops, though, is where law enforcement is investigating the president himself or the people around him. He and others have been critical of the FBI for the tragic oversight in which they failed to follow up on the warnings about the Parkland shooter. But the president went further, and he connected that to the special counsel's probe. He said, they're spending too much time trying to prove Russia collusion. Get back to basics and make us all proud. Despite that, during this Medal of Valor ceremony, the president will have an opportunity to present himself once again as a champion of law enforcement.

INSKEEP: OK. Scott, thanks very much. Really appreciate it.

HORSLEY: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.