26 Feb 2018

Gun lobby pushes back on Trump's weapon plans

7:05 am on 26 February 2018

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has pushed back against modest proposals by US President Donald Trump and other Republicans to change gun laws in the wake of a school shooting in Florida that killed 17 students and staff.

The National Rifle Association's (NRA) head Wayne LaPierre speaks during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference.

The National Rifle Association's (NRA) head Wayne LaPierre speaks during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo: AFP

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, a spokeswoman said on ABC's This Week programme.

"The NRA doesn't back any ban," Dana Loesch said.

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

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

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.

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

Mr Trump as also said he supports legislation to tighten up background checks for gun buyers, but has not provided specific details.

Mr Trump has, however, also endorsed the idea - backed by the NRA in the wake of the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut - to arm trained teachers with guns.

Ms Loesch said the group believed it should be left to individual schools to decide whether to arm teachers. On Saturday, Mr Trump said on Twitter the proposal would be left "up to states."

Protesters hold signs during a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on February 17, 2018.

Protesters hold signs during a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Photo: AFP

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican and NRA member who is expected to run for the US Senate in November congressional elections, told Fox News Sunday that he supported raising the age to buy guns, even though that put him at odds with the lobby group.

"Here's what you have to do in this job. You have to weigh individual rights, which I clearly believe in ... But you also have to make sure you protect your citizens, your kids," Mr Scott said. He said he did not agree that teachers should be armed.

Ms Loesch downplayed the emerging differences between the NRA and the White House.

"I know that people are trying to find daylight between President Trump and 5 million law-abiding gun owners," she said. "He's really looking for solutions ... so far nothing's been proposed yet."

Ms Loesch said more emphasis should be placed on how the FBI and local police missed warning signs and tips about the shooter, calling it an "abdication of duty."

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has come under fire after a deputy at the school at the time of the shooting stayed outside. Several news reports said that three other deputies were slow to enter the building.

Mr Israel said on CNN he had no plans to resign and said the department would investigate all aspects of the shooting.

- Reuters

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