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Seven gun control measures Congress could consider after Florida shooting

Seven gun control measures Congress could consider after Florida shooting
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Congress will return to Washington this week under new pressure to take action on gun control following the mass shooting at a Florida high school. 

Lawmakers will have a range of potential policies to consider, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems add five candidates to ‘Red to Blue’ program White House notifies Russia that no new sanctions are coming: report Senators push HHS to negotiate lower prices on opioid overdose reversal drug MORE and others have put both new and old ideas on the table in an effort to curb gun violence.

It’s unclear which proposal — if any — will be able to overcome the thorny politics that have impeded past efforts to enact tougher gun laws in the aftermath of other mass shootings.

Conservatives and the powerful gun lobby do not support some of the ideas that have been floated, while even the least controversial measure has been stalled in Congress for months.

But there is a growing sense of momentum to tackle the divisive issue, partly because of the student survivors who have taken their emotional pleas directly to cable television, Florida’s capital and the White House.

“I see Congress wanting to act now for the first time,” Trump told reporters Friday. 

Here are seven gun proposals that are now in the mix following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Background checks

Trump has vowed to “strongly” push for strengthening background checks for gun purchases, with an emphasis on ensuring that seriously mentally ill people can’t acquire firearms. 

The president spoke with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) last week about supporting a bill he co-authored with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) that would bolster the federal background check system.

The bipartisan Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Act would reinforce existing laws by ensuring that authorities report criminal records to the system and penalizing agencies that don’t provide the information to the FBI.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama The Hill's 12:30 Report Rubio taps head of Heritage Action as new chief of staff MORE (R-Fla.) has vowed to bring the legislation up under a unanimous consent request on Monday, though it’s unlikely to get unanimous agreement. 

The House already passed similar legislation last December, but it was paired with a contentious bill to allow people to use permits for carrying concealed weapons across state lines.

The concealed carry reciprocity measure is a major priority for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and conservatives, but is staunchly opposed by Democrats.

It’s unclear, however, whether GOP leaders will be willing to delink the two issues in order to help pass a stand-alone background checks bill. 

It’s also uncertain whether Trump would support expanding the current background check system, which would go a step further than the Fix NICS bill.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is planning to revive a measure that failed to pass in 2013, which would have expanded background checks to cover sellers that have otherwise been able to skirt background checks, such as online sellers and unlicensed gun show dealers. 

Age limits 

One proposal quickly gaining steam in Congress and some states would impose new age limits on gun purchases.

Trump and others have floated the idea of raising the age requirement to buy a rifle from 18 to 21.

Under federal law, gun dealers can't sell a handgun to anyone under the age of 21. But licensed gun dealers can sell "long guns," which include rifles, to anyone 18 and older.

The suspected gunman in the Parkland shooting was 19 years old and is believed to have purchased an AR-15 legally.

“We’re going to go very strong into age of purchase,” Trump told students, parents and teachers gathered at a White House meeting on school safety this week. 

Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Senate GOP wary of new tax cut sequel GOP Senate hopefuls race to catch up with Dems MORE (R-Ariz.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSteyer endorses de León in bid to unseat Feinstein Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks Feinstein comes out against Pompeo for secretary of State MORE (D-Calif.) are drafting bipartisan legislation that would raise the minimum purchase age for nonmilitary buyers from 18 to 21. 

The idea is picking up some Republican support in the Senate, including from Rubio and Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsKill off anti-environmental excesses in the farm bill The Hill's 12:30 Report McConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs MORE (R-Kan.)

But the NRA still adamantly opposes raising the age limit, making it a tough sell in Congress — especially in the House.

“Raising the age is not going to solve psychosis,” NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch told CNN on Friday.

Armed teachers 

The most controversial idea that Trump has embraced is arming teachers and school administrators with guns in order to protect schools. 

Trump, who has sought to walk a fine line on gun control, has repeatedly reiterated NRA talking points that gun-free school zones are soft targets that need to be hardened.

He suggested offering bonuses to teachers who are willing to go through high-level training and carry concealed weapons in classrooms.

"When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones it just puts our students in more danger — well-trained gun-adept teachers and coaches should be able to carry concealed firearms,” Trump said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

An armed teacher would have “shot the hell out of” the gunman who killed 17 people at a Florida high school last week, Trump added.

The proposal has sparked immense pushback from teachers, law enforcement and members on both sides of the aisle.

Some critics of the idea have also pointed out that there was an armed officer at the Parkland high school, but he never went into the building when the shooter started opening fire on students and teachers.

“The president and others promoting arming teachers are delusional,” Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote on Twitter. “Wake the hell up people. There was a uniformed, armed police officer on duty at Douglas H. S. and he did nothing. And you expect teachers to do his job?”

Bump stocks

The administration has already taken some action on gun control since the Parkland shooting.

Trump announced Tuesday that he has directed the Justice Department to propose a ban on bump stocks — devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire much more rapidly, mimicking automatic weapon fire. Trump’s proposal breathed new life into an issue that has been stalled for months. 

GOP leaders and Trump had embraced such a ban after such devices were used in the Las Vegas shooting last October, but the effort faded amid disagreements over whether Congress or the administration was better suited to make the change.

The gun lobby has not supported a ban and has instead called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether the devices comply with federal law and determine whether they should be subject to new regulations.

While gun reform advocates called Trump’s announcement a step in the right direction, some Democrats are insisting that Congress codify a ban with legislation.

“Words are one thing, Mr. President, but we need meaningful action,” Feinstein said in a statement. “If you want these devices off the street, call congressional Republicans and tell them to stop blocking our bill.”

"Red flag" laws

Since the suspect in the Parkland shooting was flagged repeatedly as a potential threat, many lawmakers are now advocating for so-called red flag laws, which would temporarily strip gun rights from people who are deemed to be dangerous. 

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A group of Democrats in Congress — led by Reps. Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Elizabeth Esty (Conn.) and Don Beyer (Va.) — is pushing legislation allowing law enforcement and family members to petition judges to remove firearms from gun owners showing signs of violence or instability. 

Rubio, who has taken some heat from activists after the Parkland shooting, has expressed support for the measure, which is already the law in a handful of states. 

Under federal law, only people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital can have their gun rights taken away — a tougher standard than the red flag laws. 

But the NRA believes such laws could violate Second Amendment rights. 

CDC research

A longtime Democratic priority on guns has been to empower federal researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to treat gun violence as a public health issue, which is currently banned.

An amendment that is added to annual spending bills says that “none of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”

Democrats have reiterated their calls to reverse the ban following the Parkland massacre.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteDems press for hearings after Libby pardon Supreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes GOP chairmen extend deadline for DOJ decision to turn over 'Comey memos' MORE (R-Va.) left the door open to rethinking the policy during a recent appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers."

“If it relates to mental health, that certainly should be done,” Goodlatte said. “I don’t think it’s inappropriate — particularly if the original author of that says it should be examined — to take a look at it.” 

Assault weapons ban

After the Parkland shooting, both lawmakers and survivors of the shooting proposed reviving the assault weapons ban. But that measure faces the longest odds of any gun control measure proposed after the shooting. 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who represents the district where the Parkland shooting took place, said he intends to introduce legislation next week to ban assault weapons such as the AR-15. 

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who faces a competitive reelection race this fall, wrote in an op-ed Friday that the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms should not apply to all guns. 

But the White House has thrown cold water on the idea, which is fiercely opposed by the NRA, saying Trump does not support a ban on “assault weapons.”

“He campaigned for president and was opposed to the assault weapons ban, and his position hasn't changed on that,” a spokesman said. 

Florida state lawmakers on Tuesday refused to consider a bill to ban assault weapons, despite student marches in Tallahassee supporting the legislation.