As several hundred high school students rallied at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, asking lawmakers to press for gun controls, there were more calls in the halls of Congress for action on gun violence, with both parties waiting to see what the President might do on guns, as the White House did not immediately reject some of the ideas, like age limits for people buying high-powered weapons like an AR-15.
“I think that’s certainly something that’s on the table for us to discuss and that we expect to come up in the next couple of weeks,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday, when asked about the age limit idea.
That plan is already drawing bipartisan support, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced that he is working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on a measure to raise the minimum purchase age to 21, from 18.
Feinstein has also advocated a return of something that was put into law on a temporary basis in 1994, a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons.
“When the assault weapons ban was in place, the number of gun massacres fell by 37% and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43%,” Feinstein argues.
But while that might sell with a number of Democrats in Congress today, you don’t have to go back too far – only to the aftermath of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012 – to see that a number of Democrats voted against such a plan back then.
Some Democrats argue that 2018 – and the Parkland, Florida school shooting – will be different, as a growing number of students have demanded action on gun control.
While students from Florida were rallying at their state capitol in Tallahassee, several hundred students from the Washington, D.C. area marched to the Capitol to voice their demands.
“Keep guns out of schools,” read one sign. “Ban Assault Weapons,” was another, as the students urged action in the Congress.
“I came out of my office to say, I am with you 100 percent,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), one of many more liberal Democrats who would like to see action on gun control.
But despite the enthusiasm, the path forward for almost any gun measure is cloudy at best in the Congress, as GOP leaders have given no hint that they will suddenly bring gun bills backed by Democrats to a vote in the House and Senate.
The one wild card may be President Trump, who has held more liberal views on guns in the past, including support for an assault weapons ban.
On Tuesday night, the President tweeted his support for stricter background checks on gun buyers – but that type of statement can mean many different things.
Was the President saying he would back plans from Democrats to require private gun sales to have a background check – what’s been referred to for many years as the ‘gun show loophole?’
Or is this tweet from the President something less sweeping – simply about insuring that more information gets into the instant check database system?
Like lawmakers, reporters weren’t getting much in the way of detailed answers on some of the more controversial items of gun control legislation – for example, does Mr. Trump still favor an assault weapons ban?
“I don’t have any specific announcements, but we haven’t closed the door on any front,” Mr. Trump’s Press Secretary said in response.
It was a reminder that the President could roil the gun debate in Congress, depending on how he deals with some of these post-Parkland issues.