Days after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida resulted in the deaths of 17 people, President Trump has seemingly come around to the idea of strengthening the federal background check system.
But if history is any indication, it’s probably too soon to celebrate.
In a statement on Monday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said that “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system.”
The apparent change of heart comes after days of outcry from teenage survivors of the shooting, many of whom have called on the president and lawmakers to take action on gun control. The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump was closely monitoring the media appearances by the students from the Mar-A-Lago club, where he spent the weekend.
On Monday morning, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a longtime advocate for gun control, tweeted that “Trump’s support for the FixNICS Act, my bill with @JohnCornyn, is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly”, referring to a bipartisan bill introduced last year that would penalize federal agencies that do not properly report relevant criminal history records.
Interesting morning. Two quick thoughts: 1/ Trump's support for the FixNICS Act, my bill with @JohnCornyn, is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly. 2/ No one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 19, 2018
Murphy may be right. Uproar from students following the shooting seems to be achieving something rarely seen following mass shootings in the United States: holding politicians accountable for their lack of action on gun control. During an appearance on CNN Sunday morning, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) — who held an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) during his 2016 presidential campaign — called for “commonsense gun control” and questioned the need for semi-automatic weapons. Former Florida Rep. David Jolly (R) who ran for office with the NRA’s support and longtime GOP donor Al Hoffman Jr. have also made similar comments.
But, as Murphy also acknowledged, the Fix NICS bill alone — which is supported by the NRA and was passed in the House in December — is not enough to address the mass shooting “epidemic” in the United States. The bill doesn’t add any new background check requirements and the House version includes a “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” provision, which would force states to let people carry concealed firearms in public, regardless of their individual history or training experience.
Given the bill’s shortcomings, Trump’s endorsement doesn’t really mark a shift in the president’s stance on gun control. But this isn’t the first time Trump has expressed support for a particular policy amid public outcry. After 58 people were killed in the Las Vegas shooting in October, Trump announced that he would be open to banning bump stocks, an attachment used by the shooter during that tragedy which enable a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster. In the time since, the White House has done little to advance the issue.