Republican-controlled Washington is taking steps to curb gun violence. Steps approved by the National Rifle Association.
Two narrow gun safety measures included in a funding bill President Donald Trump signed Friday — each sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats — have the group’s explicit support.
One is designed to ensure states and government agencies upload relevant criminal records into the already-existing background check system.
The other offers money to train teachers, students and law enforcement to detect violent actors and stop school shootings before they happen.
NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker called Congress’s plan to improve the background check system “something that should have been done long ago.” She praised the school safety bill as a “much needed” solution that could prevent future tragedies.
A third measure, aimed at opening up federal research on the causes of gun violence, does not include any funding. Democrats count the small change — an added sentence stating that the research is allowed — as a tiny victory for gun safety.
The NRA says that did not change the existing policy, and notes that the Centers for Disease Control is still barred from advocating for gun control, thanks to a 1996 amendment the group supports.
A half million gun safety advocates are expected to descend on Washington Saturday, clamoring for bigger changes.
Leaders in that movement say Congress’s narrow measures fail to meet the public’s demand for action after 17 people were gunned down at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month. Rally supporters are also ready to attack many lawmakers as unwilling to buck the powerful gun lobby, which spent millions putting the GOP in power in Washington.
“These baby steps forward aren’t enough,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress needs to buck the NRA…[or] voters will throw them out.”
The NRA ramped up its political spending in 2016, including $30 million just for Trump. It spent just over $12 million to help Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. The group has enjoyed unusual access to the president throughout Washington’s latest push for gun safety.
Trump met privately with the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, one day after publicly urging Congress to pursue broad changes to gun laws. After the Cox meeting, Trump narrowed his focus back to the NRA-backed bill strengthening the background check system.
“We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people,” Cox tweeted after the meeting.
The background check bill, crafted by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also has the support of gun safety groups, senators from both parties, and family members of the Parkland shooting victims.
One top gun rights priority, aimed at expanding gun rights, suffered a setback in the spending bill. The NRA has long sought to make concealed handguns permits valid across state lines.
That controversial proposal was not attached to the widely popular background check bill, as some House conservatives wanted. That package was considered Congress’s best chance for passing concealed-carry reciprocity.