Students who survived one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history are returning to school Wednesday, as federal and state lawmakers continue to debate how to prevent young people from losing their lives in what they all agree should be the safe confines of the nation’s schools.
There have been no classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida since a gunman killed 17 people there earlier this month. The massacre has reignited the the long-running debate over gun laws.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday a “gap” in the nation’s background check system for gun buyers must be filled and called for the implementation of “sweeping mental health reform.”
“These are the kinds of things that we are going to be discussing with our members, with the Senate, and with the president,” Ryan said.
What Ryan and other Republican lawmakers have not called for, however, is a ban on guns, including a ban on semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifles like the one that was used in the Florida school attack.
“We shouldn’t be banning guns for law abiding citizens, we should be focusing on making sure that citizens who should not get guns in the first place don’t get those guns, said Ryan.
The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups are strongly opposed to preventing Americans from owning certain types of weapons. As such, Republican leaders in Congress are unlikely to support U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposals to raise the minimum age for buying semi-automatic rifles, banning “bump stocks” that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, and to have more stringent background checks.
Trump, who has also called for teachers to be allowed to carry firearms in the classroom, said after meeting with the nation’s governor’s on Monday that, “half of you are so afraid of the NRA. “If [the NRA] is not with you, we have to fight them every once in a while.”
For years Democrats have pressed for a universal background check system, including investigations into online and gun show purchases.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday if Congress can pass only a bi-partisan bill to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as “Fix NICS” legislation, “it would be an abject failure and a dereliction of duty.”
Many House Democratic members want to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired more than a decade ago, but House Republican leaders maintain the Senate has the responsibility to take the next steps.
The mass shooting has prompted the Florida state legislature to debate a school safety bill. On Tuesday, House Republicans rebuffed Democratic amendments that would ban assault weapons, delete language that would allow some teachers to be armed with guns in schools and require mental health examinations for potential gun buyers.