While speaking to community leaders in Danville, Kentucky, on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said school shootings are an "epidemic," but he doesn't believe "at the federal level there's much that we can do other than appropriate funds."
Activists are calling for several different reforms, including universal background checks on gun purchases and increasing the legal age to buy guns to 21, which are changes that could be made on the federal level, The Lexington Herald Leader notes.
McConnell told the crowd that Congress has been able to appropriate money for schools to offer counseling and increase campus safety. "You would think, given how much it takes to get on an American plane or given how much it takes to get into courthouses, that this might be something that we could achieve, but I don't think we could get that from Washington," he said. "I think it's basically a local decision." Catherine Garcia
On Wednesday, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed into law the state's first-ever significant gun ownership restrictions, including raising the minimum age to buy firearms to 21 from 18, banning high-capacity magazines, and requiring background checks for most private gun sales.
"This is not the time to do what's easy, it's time to do what's right," Scott said. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Vermont State House, with supporters of the new legislation cheering and gun rights advocates heckling Scott. Scott, a gun owner, had urged lawmakers to strengthen the laws after police announced last month they foiled a Vermont teenager's plot to shoot up his high school.
Throughout the signing ceremony, Turnbridge resident Ben Tucker yelled at Scott. The "whole thing is wrong," he told The Associated Press. "It's just wrong in every sense of the word." Victoria Biondolillo, a University of Vermont student and Republican Party activist, disagreed. "I think it takes a lot of courage to stand up there when people are screaming at you," she said. "It brought tears to my eyes how proud I am of our state that we can work together on this." Catherine Garcia
The Department of Justice on Saturday posted a notice of a regulatory proposal to ban bump stocks, the modification for semi-automatic weapons that permitted the Las Vegas attacker to shoot about 500 people in 10 minutes in October. The DOJ seeks to change the legal "definition of 'machinegun' in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act [to include] bump stock type devices," which would effect a ban.
That change would also reverse an Obama-era determination of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that bump stocks do not fit the machine gun definition and thus cannot be prohibited without new legislation from Congress. Some ATF officials believe that 2010 decision was correct and the Trump administration does not have legal authority to proceed with this ban, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"President Trump is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety and security of every American," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the DOJ notice, "and he has directed us to propose a regulation addressing bump stocks." Trump has supported a variety of new gun control measures in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, but his allies and critics alike remain uncertain about the reliability of his stance. Bonnie Kristian
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Tuesday that President Trump "supports raising the age limit to 21 for the purchase of certain firearms," despite the NRA rejecting the proposal over the weekend.
While Sanders declined to go into specifics, she had said Monday that "the president is planning a meeting for Wednesday with bipartisan members of Congress ... to discuss different pieces of legislation and what they can do moving forward." She anticipated "some specific policy proposals later this week."
Press Sec. Sanders: "The president still supports raising the age limit to 21 for the purchase of certain firearms." pic.twitter.com/S2CDkCVDjW
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 27, 2018
Questions about Trump's resolve arose after a congressional source told CNN on Monday that the president is "moving back" from the idea of raising the age limit. The debate follows the deaths of 17 students and teachers at a Parkland, Florida, high school at the hands of a 19-year-old gunman who legally purchased an AR-15.
"Half of you are afraid of the NRA," Trump told state governors at the White House on Monday, urging: "We have to fight them every once in a while — that's okay." Jeva Lange
Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Monday after a week-long recess under intensifying pressure to enact gun-control legislation in response to the shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, The Hill reports. Politicians in both parties have recognized that Congress will need to address demands from students and others for measures to make schools safer, including tougher gun laws, but so far there has been no consensus on what to do. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Sunday he planned to renew a push with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks for commercial gun sales, but he said he was "skeptical" about proposals to raise the minimum age for buying civilian versions of military-style rifles like the AR-15. Harold Maass
Dozens of teenagers participated in a "lie-in" outside of the White House on Monday, calling for stricter gun laws and an end to school shootings like the massacre last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which left 17 dead and 15 injured.
The protest was organized by a group called Teens for Gun Reform. On Facebook, the organizers said they wanted to "make a statement on the atrocities which have been committed due to the lack of gun control, and send a powerful message to our government that they must take action now." The teens stretched out on the sidewalk, remaining on the ground for just a few minutes "in order to symbolize how quickly someone, such as the [Florida] shooter, is able to purchase a gun in America," the group said.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have also mobilized, and they're planning a rally against school and gun violence, March for Our Lives, on March 24 in Washington, D.C., with sister events across the United States. "We're going to have, in every major city, somewhere that people all across the country can go to," student Brendan Duff told NPR. Students "want to feel engaged, and they want to do something to help. And this is it." Catherine Garcia
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed six new gun control measures into law on Friday while vetoing five other gun-related bills he said were excessive in regulatory scope.
Among the bills Brown signed was one prohibiting possession of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, as well as a ban on semiautomatic weapons with "bullet buttons," a feature that facilitates speedy reloading. Among those he rejected was one that expanded the definition of "firearm" in a way Brown found unacceptably vague.
As these things always go, Brown's decision was hailed by gun control supporters as "far-reaching and bold" and by gun rights advocates as a "draconian" exploitation of post-Orlando fears over mass shooters and terrorism. Bonnie Kristian
Hawaii became the first state in the nation to automatically place all gun owners in an FBI criminal tracking database, which will enable the federal government to "monitor them for possible wrongdoing anywhere in the country." From now on, if a Hawaiian gun owner is arrested for any reason, their hometown police will be notified and their permission to own a gun reexamined.
"This bill has undergone a rigorous legal review process by our Attorney General’s office," said Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who signed the bill Thursday, "and we have determined that it is our responsibility to approve this measure for the sake of our children and families."
But critics say the new law is an extreme and invasive measure. "Why are law abiding citizens exercising their constitutional right being entered into a criminal database?" asked Hawaiian Quentin Kealoha in a public comment process about the bill. "Would you enter people exercising their right to free speech into a criminal database?" Bonnie Kristian