Monday 24 September 2018

Trump backs efforts to toughen FBI gun checks following school massacre

Students who survived the Parkland carnage have called for gun control and are planning a march in Washington next month.

President Donald Trump has spent President's Day at his exclusive golf resort, around 40 miles from the scene of the shooting (AP)
President Donald Trump has spent President's Day at his exclusive golf resort, around 40 miles from the scene of the shooting (AP)

By Catherine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire

US president Donald Trump has backed an effort to strengthen the federal gun background check system in the wake of last week’s deadly school shooting in Florida.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president spoke to senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, about a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland which left 17 people dead.

Ms Sanders said: “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.”

Mr Trump, who spent the weekend at his private Palm Beach estate around 40 miles away from the scene of the massacre, started the President’s Day holiday at his nearby golf club.

In several tweets sent over the weekend from Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump vented about Russia and raged at the FBI for what he perceived to be a fixation on the Russia investigation at the cost of failing to deter the school attack. He made little mention of the shooting victims and the escalating gun control debate.

Surviving students have called for tougher gun control and are planning a march in Washington next month. Mr Trump has focused his comments on mental health, rather than guns.

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Mr Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania, visits medical staff (AP)

The White House said the president will host a “listening session” with students and teachers this week, but offered no details on who would attend or what would be discussed.

The bipartisan background check legislation would be aimed at ensuring that federal agencies and states accurately report relevant criminal information to the FBI. It was introduced after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of a gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church.

Mr Trump has been a strong supporter of gun rights and powerful lobbying group the National Rifle Association. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Mr Trump has grown increasingly frustrated since the indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday charged 13 Russians with a plot to interfere in the US presidential election.

On Twitter, Mr Trump stressed that the Russian effort began before he declared his candidacy and asserted that the Obama administration bears some blame for it. He also insisted he never denied that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 US campaign, although in fact he has frequently challenged the veracity of the evidence.

Mr Trump tweeted about the nation’s “heavy heart” after the shooting in Parkland. But he also sought to use the shooting to criticise the FBI, saying it “missed all of the many signals” sent by the suspect.

Press Association

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