Early Monday morning, after President Trump reportedly spent the weekend watching the moving television appearances of the young survivors of last week’s deadly school shooting, the White House announced that Trump was encouraging senators to revive a stalled bill to modestly strengthen background checks for gun purchases.
“The President spoke to Senator Cornyn on Friday about the bi-partisan bill he and Sen. Murphy introduced to improve Federal Compliance with Criminal Background check Legislation,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.”
The announcement comes after the President has been hit with criticism for not mentioning guns at all in his public responses to the mass shooting, focusing instead on mental health.
The bill drafted by Texas Republican John Cornyn and Delaware Democrat Chris Murphy would require all federal agencies to report infractions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and would attempt to get states to do so as well through financial incentives. It does not add any new background check requirements for gun purchases or close any of the current loopholes, and it is supported by the NRA.
Still, the bill aims to make sure domestic violence convictions—which the shooter in the Sutherland Springs church massacre had—and other felony convictions, make it into the background check database. Currently, the database is missing millions of criminal records.
Murphy responded to Trump’s apparent endorsement of his legislation on Monday, saying that “no one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic,” but noting that the White House’s support may be “another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly.”
When the bill was introduced last November, Trump did not support it. Instead, he argued that any stricter gun laws would have made the shooting more deadly.