President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump board Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, to travel to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump board Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, to travel to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. AP Photo - Andrew Harnik

White House announces Trump back-flip on gun controls

PRESIDENT Donald Trump supports efforts to improve the federal background check system for gun purchases, the White House has said, less than a week after a school shooting in Florida resulted in the deaths of 17 people.

Mr Trump is said to have spoken to Republican Senator John Cornyn about gun legislation on Friday.

During the conversation, they discussed the bipartisan bill Mr Cornyn and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy introduced to improve federal compliance with criminal background checks, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

"While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system," Ms Sanders said.

While running for president, Mr Trump tied himself to the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful gun-rights organisations, and received the most gun lobbying funding of any presidential candidate ever.

Last April, Mr Trump declared to members of the NRA: "The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end."

He also assured association - which donated more than $30m (£21.4m) to his presidential campaign - that it now has "a true friend and champion in the White House."

His comments came after he signed a resolution in February blocking an Obama-era rule that would have prevented an estimated 75,000 people with mental disorders from buying guns.

The rule was part of former President Barack Obama's push to strengthen the federal background check system following the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut shooting - the deadliest school shooting in US history.

Mr Trump's initial response to the Florida shooting drew criticism from gun control advocates. While the President expressed empathy, he made it clear that he would not break from his base or the Republican party's position on the issue that does not appear to be preventing such tragedies from occurring again and again.

In his speech last week following the massacre, Mr Trump called for action but did not mention the issue of gun control. Instead, he promised to prioritise school safety and "tackle the difficult issue of mental health". He did not say the word "gun" or discuss AR-15s, which have repeatedly been used in mass shootings.

A gunman last Wednesday, armed with a legally purchased AR-15-style assault rifle, attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, about 45 miles north of Miami.

Several student survivors have called on Mr Trump and members of Congress to take action on gun control, appearing on news programmes to announce they will lead a nationwide demonstration next month to bring further attention to the issue.

Any politician on either side who is receiving money from the NRA "is responsible for events like this", said high school junior Cameron Kasky, referring to the Parkland shooting.

"At the end of the day, the NRA is fostering and promoting this gun culture," he told ABC.

Over the weekend in Florida, Mr Trump is said to have surveyed members at his Mar-a-Lago resort about whether he should support gun control measures. He told them he was closely watching the media appearances by the student survivors, the Washington Post reported.

The White House announced on Sunday that the President will host a "listening session" with students to discuss school safety measures.

Mr Trump also spent time ranting on Twitter. In a tweetstorm that began late Saturday evening and lasted until around noon on Sunday, Mr Trump railed against former President Barack Obama, Democrats, CNN and an investigation into whether his campaign colluded with the Russian government.

He also blamed the FBI for the shooting.

"Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable," the President wrote. "They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!"

The FBI acknowledged on Friday that it failed to "investigate a warning over the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, with the agency saying a tipster had called a hotline claiming that Cruz owned a gun and had "a desire to kill".

Cruz appeared in court on Monday. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.



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