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- President Donald Trump called for increasing the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21, bringing long guns onto the same level as handgun laws.
- Lawmakers are skeptical about the plan making its way through a divided Senate and a considerably more conservative House.
WASHINGTON – Among the handful of ideas floated in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, two weeks ago was a pitch to extend the age requirement for purchasing all firearms to 21. But such a proposal is failing to gain any steam in the Senate, even with backing from President Donald Trump.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is not backing an immediate age increase for long-gun purchases. Instead, Sanders told Business Insider he is primarily focused on “significantly strengthening background checks” and renewing an assault weapons ban like the one in effect from 1994-2004.
“I think we need to take a serious look at all aspects of gun safety,” Sanders said. “I’ll take a look at other things, but that’s kind of the main areas that I’m focused on.”
Other senators echoed Sanders, expressing a general openness to looking at adjusting age requirements without hard commitments one way or the other.
“I think everything’s on the table, the way it is every time we consider it and the body will come up with in the Senate whatever 60 votes can attract,” said Sen. Richard Burr, adding that “clearly if the president gets behind it it probably could.”
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, shrugged off the possibility of any minimum-age increase making it to the president’s desk, regardless of White House support.
“I’m not sure that’s a bill that can pass the House,” Blunt told Business Insider. “So I’m not gonna spend a lot of time here casting votes for things that can’t happen or taking positions on things that can’t happen. I’m gonna spend my time figuring out what’s possible and I don’t know yet if that is or not.”
A few Republicans have expressed veiled support for some type of age increase for long-gun purchases. Among them are Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins told reporters on Monday that the proposal was appealing, as long as it was limited to purchases only.
“It seems to make sense to have the same age requirement for purchasing a rifle as you do for a handgun,” Collins said. “Now, I want to make clear that doesn’t mean that a family that is out hunting couldn’t lend a rifle to someone who’s younger than that age.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas drew a hard line, saying that “legal adults have the right to defend themselves.”
“The Bill of Rights applies to all adults, not just those Washington wants it to apply to,” Cruz said. “I believe we should be protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding citizens.”