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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement 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 John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' 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 CornynSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation MORE (R-Texas) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens Lawmakers spar over upcoming Sondland testimony Johnson: Whistleblower 'exposed things that didn't need to be exposed' 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.