President Trump says he wants to improve background checks, but budget calls for cuts

Trump will host a listening session with high schoolers impacted by shootings.

ByABC News
February 20, 2018, 6:41 PM

— -- While the White House has said President Donald Trump is “supportive of efforts” to update the nation’s background check system in the wake of the Florida high school shooting last week, the president's proposed budget for 2019 would actually roll back federal grants to help states in reporting to the national background check system.

Under the proposed FY 2019 budget, which the administration rolled out just two days before the deadly Parkland, Fla. shooting that left 17 people dead, proposed federal spending for the grants that help states improve the completeness of the records they report to the federal database would be reduced from $73 million to $61 million — a $12 million decrease.

An administration official insists that the president's budget fully funds the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and said the decrease in proposed funding is designed to match the level of spending requested by states that qualify for the grants.

"The FY 2019 President's Budget proposes to reduce funding for this program because the number of states eligible for NICS Act Record Improvement Program funding is not expected to increase and the $10.0 million request is sufficient to sustain the existing level of activity under this program," the official said, noting that the government only funded the states that were eligible and that some states have failed to produce required compliance plans related to reporting mental health records.

President Trump, who sources tell ABC News has repeatedly said “we have to do something” in the wake of the Florida tragedy, announced on Tuesday that he directed his Justice Department to look into banning bump stocks, which were used in the Las Vegas shooting last year.

The president has also expressed support for a bill introduced last year by Sen. John Cornyn, R–Texas, to update the background check system to ensure that states and federal agencies have up-to-date and accurate information on individuals prohibited from buying firearms.

Cornyn introduced the bill, called the Fix NICS Act, last year following the Sutherland Springs mass shooting in his home state. The bill is co-sponsored by leading gun control advocate Sen. Chris Murphy, D–Conn., who saw 20 children killed in his home state in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.

The bill, referring to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, is also endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Press secretary Sarah Sanders has said that “discussions are ongoing” but that “the president is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system."

While any action the administration takes in the wake of Florida is expected to stop short of any proposal that would amount to gun restrictions, Principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said late last week that “mental health and school safety” would be at the forefront of any policy prescriptions the administration may pursue.

“The president wants to take leadership and actually fix this problem and create best practices across the country,” Shah said on FOX News late last week.

On Wednesday, the president is set to host a “listening session” with high school students and community members impacted by the school shootings Parkland, Sandy Hook and Columbine communities.

On Thursday, he will meet with state and local officials on the issue.

Related Topics