Washington, United States | AFP | US President Donald Trump signaled support Monday for improving background gun checks amid mounting pressure for reform in the wake of the Florida school shooting, as the accused gunman appeared in court.
Nikolas Cruz, charged with killing 17 people, sat silently with his head bowed during a procedural hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in what is expected to be a lengthy and emotional prosecution.
Wednesday’s rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Florida has ignited protests by students who survived the onslaught and renewed calls for changes in US gun laws.
Cruz, 19, was able to legally buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle despite numerous red flags that nonetheless failed to prompt action by state and federal agencies.
The White House indicated that Trump is receptive to a bipartisan proposal that would require more prompt reporting to a national database of offenses that would bar an individual from buying a firearm.
“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
The legislation, however, does not address the broader, divisive issue of permissive gun laws under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.
– Student protests –
Chanting “Shame on you, Shame on you,” about 100 students from area high schools gathered outside the White House and staged a “lie-in” to press demands for change.
“More Guns, More Murder,” read one of the signs carried by demonstrators.
Maya Smith, 15, said she fears for her life when she walks into school “because the government won’t decide that my life matters as much as the right to bear arms matters.”
“We as students shouldn’t be worrying about being shot in our school,” said high school junior Juneau Wang.
“Students should be worrying about a bad test grade, not the fact that someone could walk in with an AR-15 any time during the school day.”
After earlier mass shootings, Trump has said little about guns, focusing instead on the mental health of shooters. Following the October 1 attack in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead, he said only that “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
After the Parkland shooting, he emphasized the need to deal with mental-health issues, while castigating the FBI for missing warning signs about the shooter.