USA: Latest school shooting puts pressure on lawmakers for stricter gun control

Last week, the deadly shooting at a Florida high school that left in its wake 17 dead seems to mobilize the Republican-held Legislature in the state, which seems to be considering a sweeping package of gun control laws, despite the fact that for many decades the state has restricted all restrictions on the matter.

The massacre prompted students from all over the state to urge lawmakers to act to prevent a repeat, as the trial of suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, is underway. On Monday he made his first appearance on court wearing a prison jumpsuit and refusing to make eye contact. A previous appearance was by a video connection from jail. His lawyers have stated that he will plead guilty if the prosecutors agree not to pursue the death penalty, but for the moment nothing official has been announced.

In spite of the emotional legislators willing to reconsider their stance on gun control, there is still strong resistance by many in the party to any gun-control measures, leaving the fate of new restrictions unclear.

Just 40 miles from the crime scene, US President Donald Trump, from his golf club at Mar-a-Lago, offered support for a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases, while staying mostly silent about the victims of the massacre and the escalating debate about gun control. On Friday, he visited first responders and some victims, with his comments focusing mostly on mental health and not gun control.

White House sources claim that on Friday he spoke with to Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, about a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers, with spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders underlining that revisions are being considered and that the President supports “efforts to improve the federal background check system”. The bipartisan background check legislation would be aimed at ensuring that federal agencies and states accurately report relevant criminal information to the FBI.

Ever since his inauguration, President Trump has been an adamant supporter of gun rights and the National Rifle Association (NRA) and so far has signed a  resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

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