Trump just threw the GOP leadership’s strategy on gun control under the bus

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

  • President Donald Trump said during a White House meeting that Congress should pass a broad bill dealing with guns.
  • That contradicts the strategy of Senate Republican leaders, who want to pass a narrower bill focusing on the background check system.
  • Democrats are in favor of a broader bill to address guns, closer to Trump’s request.

President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass a sweeping bill to address a slew of gun-related issues during a White House meeting Wednesday, a request that flies directly in the face of his own party leadership’s strategy.

Trump said in response to the attack at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Congress should address everything from mental illness treatment to the age requirement to buy certain types of guns in an attempt to prevent mass shootings.

In the run up to the meeting, Sen. John Cornyn – the second-ranking GOP senator – repeatedly deflected requests from some Democrats to pass a wide-ranging gun bill. Instead, Cornyn advocated for the Senate to focus on a narrow bill that closed some loopholes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

“I realize that it may not be as comprehensive as some people would like,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The problem is around here, if you ignore the things that you can agree on and just look to fight about things you can’t agree on, nothing ever happens. No problems ever get solved.”

Cornyn’s “Fix NICS” bill would tighten rules on the existing background check system to ensure that agencies upload information to the NICS. Ad that fewer people who do not qualify to buy a gun fall through the cracks.

During the White House meeting, Trump requested that Cornyn add his narrower NICS background check bill to other legislation such as a proposal that would close background check loopholes for people buying guns online or at a gun show. Trump also suggested increasing the age to purchase long guns to 21.

Trump’s request seemed more in line with what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for on the floor of the Senate than Cornyn.

“Fix NICS has wide support in this chamber, I am a cosponsor but it is just the first, tiny step that addresses one specific issue,” Schumer said. “We have a whole host of issues to address.”

While many Democrats support the Fix NICS bill, lawmakers in the party are angling to include the fix along with a change that would require background checks on all gun purchases.

“If we were only to debate the Fix NICS Act,we would be slamming the door in the face of all these kids who are demanding change,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said Tuesday.

Sen. Bill Nelson echoed a similar sentiment, saying Cornyn’s bill is “not nearly enough.”

“We want to move to some substantial accomplishments to get at this problem,” Nelson said.

In a statement following the meeting, Schumer applauded Trump’s willingness to go beyond Cornyn’s bill.

“I want to commend the president for going far beyond the Fix NICS bill. The president’s comments indicate that he supports universal background checks and even possibly an assault weapons ban,” he said. “But the next step is even more important – despite the huge pressure that will come from the hard right, the president must stick with these principles.”

A spokesperson for Cornyn did not respond to a request for comment.