GOP focuses on law enforcement mistakes — not new gun laws
House Republicans on Tuesday criticized mistakes by law enforcement following the mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.
Members emerging from a conference meeting on Tuesday delivered a coordinated message that focused on what they described as glaring failures by the FBI and local police while arguing that new gun laws would not have prevented the killings.
“Here’s what makes me mad: all these proposals don’t address the problem,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “There was like 36 times this kid interacted with government. It looks the sheriff’s office didn’t do their job.”
“And now the answer is more government?”
The House Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees requested briefings from the FBI on its response to the incident, and lawmakers are also vowing to hold hearings on the issue.
Congress is under intense pressure to take action following the shooting, which reopened a national debate on guns.
A number of Republicans have offered support for raising the age limit to buy an AR-15, the weapon used in the shootings. A few have even backed an assault weapons ban.
But there also is significant opposition to moving forward with tougher gun laws, and most of the lawmakers who spoke Tuesday weren’t offering a ton of support for new gun control measures.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a press conference on Tuesday that “there was a colossal breakdown” that led to law enforcement missing the warning signs.
“We need to get to the bottom of how these breakdowns occurred,” Ryan said. “We are going to be looking at the system failures.”
Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who met with survivors of the shooting on Monday, echoed a similar sentiment.
“The FBI had this guy’s name on a silver platter,” said Scalise, who was shot last year during a GOP baseball practice. “There were a lot of students in that school that said ‘we think he is going to be a school shooter.’ ”
The FBI and local police have admitted that they received multiple warnings about the suspected shooter but failed to follow up on them.
It has also been reported that an armed school resource officer stationed at the high school remained outside the building while the shooter was gunning down students and teachers inside.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), an ally of President Trump, said the Tuesday meeting yielded little agreement on what gun reforms Congress should take up.
Many Republicans, Collins said, will “follow the lead of the president” if he chooses to ban bump stock devices, strengthen background checks for gun purchases, or arm teachers in schools.
“There’s certainly not any consensus [on guns]. This is an ongoing discussion,” Collins told reporters as he left the meeting. “It’s clear there were just epic failures of law enforcement, both that resource officer that should have been stepping in, but also the FBI that had every opportunity to have stopped this before it ever occurred.”
“We are going to have Oversight hearings on the failures of law enforcement,” Collins added.
Not every Republican has shied away from calling for stricter gun laws.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who supports banning assault weapons and raising the age requirement for purchasing rifles, presented some of his ideas to his colleagues on Tuesday.
But Mast added that they were not met with “thunderous applause.”
Lawmakers are looking for leadership from Trump, who has floated his support for a wide range of gun proposals.
But many of Trump’s ideas have already run into resistance from members of his own party.
Avid gun rights supporters say raising the age requirement to purchase rifles is a non-starter, while conservatives have due process concerns over a narrow bill to strengthen the current background check system for gun purchases.
The House already passed the background checks bill, but only after it was attached to a bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
Congress needs to “conduct some pretty vigorous oversight to see why the FBI failed, because their point of failure was pretty disturbing. And we’ve got to investigate what happened with the local authorities that failed multiple times,” Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told The Hill.
“Before you begin crafting any legislation,” he said, “you need to make sure you know exactly what happened.”
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