Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that universal background checks would be the party’s “No. 1 priority.”
“Our No. 1 priority is going to be universal background checks, which is supported by about 80 percent of the American people, and closing the gun show loophole and all the other ways that people get around the background checks,” he told reporters.
Lawmakers have turned their focus to the background check system after last week’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Congress “must act by closing loopholes in gun laws and passing universal background checks” while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) added that President Trump needs to “support universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
Trump tweeted Tuesday evening that “we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks.” And the White House said this week the president supports a bill by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) aimed at strengthening the National Instant Background Check System (NICS).
But Schumer said Wednesday that was a “small step” and “not close to enough.”
“In terms of getting something real done, the universal background check is at the, sort of, nexus of [having] a chance of actually becoming law, particularly if the president would support it, and at the same time doing a whole lot of good,” he said.
The House passed its version of the Cornyn-Murphy bill last year, but attached it to legislation allowing people to use permits for carrying concealed handguns across state lines.
But linking the two issues is largely considered a nonstarter in the Senate, where Republicans will need the support of at least nine Democrats to get any bill through the chamber.
The Cornyn-Murphy bill does not include the concealed carry reciprocity provision. Schumer said Wednesday that it would be a “very, very bad idea” to try to merge the two proposals into one bill.
“That would be a repeat of what they tried to do, what the administration tried to do, on immigration. Attach something good … to something so totally unacceptable,” he said.