13 Mar 2018

Trump abandons age 21 rifle purchase restriction

10:53 am on 13 March 2018

US President Donald Trump has put off raising the minimum age for gun purchases, one of several measures he had backed after the shooting at a Florida school last month.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump Photo: AFP

The Republican president, who championed gun rights during his 2016 campaign, had vowed to take action to prevent school shootings after a 19-year-old former student killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February.

The shootings reignited fierce debate in the United States, and Mr Trump stunned members of Congress during White House meetings by voicing support for proposals long opposed by his fellow Republicans and accusing lawmakers of being afraid of the NRA.

However, the Trump administration's school safety plans announced on Sunday closely aligned with National Rifle Association (NRA) positions, featuring proposals to train teachers to carry guns in schools while neglecting to raise the age for buying guns from 18 to 21.

"On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly)," Trump wrote on Twitter.

The White House said it had put off some of the more "controversial" proposals - including raising the minimum purchase age - for further study by a new commission led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Asked why the age limit proposal was dropped from the administration plan, DeVos told NBC's Today show the plan was the first step in a lengthy process.

"Everything is on the table," she said on Monday.

The Justice Department will also provide an unspecified amount of grants to states that want to train teachers to carry guns in school. The bill would help officials create teams to better detect plans for violent acts before they occur and implement anonymous reporting systems for students.

Florida last week adopted new gun regulations, triggering a federal lawsuit from the NRA to block raising the minimum age for buying long guns.

Mr Trump has also backed legislation aimed at providing more data for the background check system, a database of people who are not legally allowed to buy guns, but did not endorse a broader proposal to close loopholes by requiring background checks for guns bought at gun shows or over the Internet.

The NRA did not return a request for comment on the president's proposals on Monday.

The top Democrats in Congress accused Trump of caving to the NRA and vowed to keep pushing for tougher gun measures.

"The families and students suffering from the heartbreak of gun violence deserve real leadership, not a White House that cravenly tiptoes around the NRA," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

It was not clear how quickly Congress would move on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has not scheduled debate for any gun-related bills.

The NRA-backed background check data bill, which now has a supermajority of co-sponsors, is pending in the Senate. With more than 60 co-sponsors in the 100-member chamber, individual senators would have a hard time slowing or blocking its passage if it were brought up for debate.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday is expected to debate a bill that would invest $50 million a year to help education and law enforcement officials reduce the chances of gun violence at schools.

On Saturday, the Justice Department submitted a regulation to ban bump stocks - devices that turn semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic machine guns - that would not require congressional approval.

Some gun control advocates worry that the regulation will face legal challenges, and have urged Congress to pass a law instead.

- Reuters

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