President Donald Trump is urging Congress to act on new restrictions for gun purchases in the wake of a school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, including some measures that could put him on a collision course with his staunch supporters in the National Rifle Association.
In a series of tweets Thursday, the president denied that he supports arming teachers, reiterated his support for arming “gun adept” teachers, and suggested he would back raising the minimum age to purchase some semiautomatic weapons, but his exact policy prescriptions remained vague.
Purchasers of handguns must already be 21, but the 19-year-old suspect in last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was able to legally buy an AR-15. Trump did not refer to specific weapons, but he called on Congress to "Raise age to 21," an apparent reference to the fact that some guns can still be purchased at age 18.
Trump also endorsed "Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health." Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., co-sponsor of a bill that would improve background checks, questioned whether this means support for requiring background checks on all commercial gun sales, something Trump has not previously backed.
"If that's what you mean, I'm listening," Murphy tweeted.
David Hogg, one of the most outspoken survivors of the shooting, also welcomed the president's stance.
"Thank you just don't stop until those bills pass/ even get to the floor if @SpeakerRyan allows it which he hasn't so many times before #neveragain," he tweeted.
Trump also referred to ending the sale of bump stocks. Earlier this week, Trump directed the Department of Justice to draft regulations that would ban bump stocks, devices that can be used to make semiautomatic weapons fire like automatics. Democrats have called for legislation outlawing bump stocks since they were used by a gunman who killed dozens at a country music festival in Las Vegas in October, but the NRA and the White House had backed a regulatory approach.
"Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope!" Trump said.
Trump's tweet on background checks and other restrictions followed a series of posts complaining that the "fake news" was misreporting his statements at a listening session with victims of school shootings at the White House Wednesday and attempting to clarify his position.
"I never said 'give teachers guns,'" Trump wrote, but he then went on to strongly argue for "Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches" as a "GREAT DETERRENT."
"If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school," he tweeted.