NRA opposes Trump's plan to tighten gun laws

WASHINGTON • The National Rifle Association (NRA) has pushed back against modest proposals by President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders to change US gun laws after a school shooting in Florida that killed 17 students and staff.

The powerful gun lobby group does not support Mr Trump's proposals to raise the age limit for buying certain types of guns and to ban bump stocks that enable semi-automatic rifles to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute, spokesman Dana Loesch said on ABC's This Week programme. "The NRA doesn't back any ban."

Mr Trump was endorsed by the NRA in his 2016 presidential election campaign and often trumpets his support for Americans' constitutional right to own guns.

But the Feb 14 massacre at the Florida high school has mobilised students to push for restrictions on gun sales, spurred several companies to sever ties with the NRA and energised gun-control activists.

As November congressional elections draw closer, Mr Trump and Republicans are under pressure to show they are responding to concerns about school safety without angering supporters who oppose gun control.

Since the Florida shooting, Mr Trump has declared support for raising the age limit to 21 from 18 for buying rifles.

The 19-year-old shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, had bought his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle legally.

"That's what the NRA came out and said, that's correct," Ms Loesch said when pressed on whether the group opposes raising the minimum age.

EFFECTIVE OR NOT?

I wish that background checks stopped criminals or stopped school shootings, but they don't.

REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS MASSIE, a Republican from Kentucky, saying he opposed changes to background check laws and other restrictions on gun ownership.

Mr Trump also has asked the Justice Department to develop a rule that would effectively ban the sale of bump stocks, a device used last year by a shooter who killed 58 people at a Las Vegas concert, the deadliest attack by a single gunman in US history.

The President also said he supports legislation to tighten background checks for gun buyers, although he has not provided specific details.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, a sponsor of a Bill that would require background checks for weapons sold at gun shows and on the Internet, said Mr Trump's support could help advance proposals that floundered in the past.

"Our President can play a huge and in fact probably decisive role in this," Mr Toomey said on NBC's Meet The Press programme. Legislation to close loopholes in background checks failed to clear the 60-vote threshold in the US Senate after a shooter killed 26 children and teachers in 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Speaking at a White House dinner for US governors on Sunday, Mr Trump said his meetings with them this week would focus on school safety.

Tweaks to gun laws face an uphill battle among conservative Republicans in Congress. On Sunday, Representative Thomas Massie from Kentucky said he opposed changes to background check laws and other restrictions on gun ownership. "I wish that background checks stopped criminals or stopped school shootings, but they don't," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2018, with the headline 'NRA opposes Trump's plan to tighten gun laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe