Schumer: Universal background checks Dems' top priority

Schumer: Universal background checks Dems' top priority
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are zeroing in on a push to require universal background checks for gun purchases following last week's shooting at a Florida high school.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that universal background checks would be the party's "No. 1 priority."

"Our No. 1 priority is going to be universal background checks, which is supported by about 80 percent of the American people, and closing the gun show loophole and all the other ways that people get around the background checks," he told reporters.

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Lawmakers have turned their focus to the background check system after last week's shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema US gymnasts offer scathing assessment of FBI The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Simone Biles, gymnastics stars slam FBI during Nassar testimony MORE (D-Ill.) said Congress "must act by closing loopholes in gun laws and passing universal background checks" while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) added that President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE needs to "support universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."

Trump tweeted Tuesday evening that "we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks." And the White House said this week the president supports a bill by Sens. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime MORE (R-Texas) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyTell our troops: 'Your sacrifice wasn't in vain' Sunday shows preview: Bombing in Kabul delivers blow to evacuation effort; US orders strikes on ISIS-K White House seeks to regain control on Afghanistan MORE (D-Conn.) aimed at strengthening the National Instant Background Check System (NICS).

But Schumer said Wednesday that was a "small step" and "not close to enough."

"In terms of getting something real done, the universal background check is at the, sort of, nexus of [having] a chance of actually becoming law, particularly if the president would support it, and at the same time doing a whole lot of good," he said.

The House passed its version of the Cornyn-Murphy bill last year, but attached it to legislation allowing people to use permits for carrying concealed handguns across state lines.

But linking the two issues is largely considered a nonstarter in the Senate, where Republicans will need the support of at least nine Democrats to get any bill through the chamber.

The Cornyn-Murphy bill does not include the concealed carry reciprocity provision. Schumer said Wednesday that it would be a "very, very bad idea" to try to merge the two proposals into one bill.

"That would be a repeat of what they tried to do, what the administration tried to do, on immigration. Attach something good ... to something so totally unacceptable," he said.