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White House Says Trump Supports Bipartisan Efforts To Improve Background Checks For Guns

The "Fix NICS Act" was introduced after the 2017 mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Last updated on February 19, 2018, at 10:49 a.m. ET

Posted on February 19, 2018, at 9:51 a.m. ET

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The White House on Monday said that President Trump supports bipartisan efforts that would improve the federal background check system to ensure those convicted of a crime would not be able to buy a gun, in the wake of the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last week.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that the president spoke with Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy about the "Fix NICS Act" they introduced last year.

“The president spoke to Senator Cornyn on Friday about the bipartisan bill he and Sen. Murphy introduced to improve federal compliance with criminal background check legislation," Sanders said. "While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system.”

The "Fix NCIS Act" was introduced after the church massacre last year in Cornyn's home state of Texas. The gunman in that shooting killed 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs before being shot by a bystander.

The act would give states incentives to upload information about people who are prohibited from buying a gun, such as convicted criminals and people who have been dishonorably discharged from the military, into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS. It also is supported by the NRA.

In a fact sheet, House Judiciary Chairman Sen. Bob Goodlatte said if NICS is improved, it could stop shooters such as the gunman in the Texas attack.

"[The bill] would have ensured that the Virginia Tech, Charleston church, and Sutherland Springs shooters would have been flagged in the NICS system and prevented their firearm purchases," he said.

However, the bill passed the House last year combined with the pro-gun Concealed-Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow people who are able to carry a concealed weapon in their own state to carry it in any state.

Murphy, the act's Democratic cosponsor, blasted the move to advance both acts together last year. He is pushing for Fix NICS to pass on its own.

"By combining the national concealed weapons bill with the Fix NICS Act, the House is jeopardizing the chances of actually passing bipartisan, comprehensive reform of our broken background checks system," he said.

The statement from the White House comes amid national outrage over the shooting in Florida, which left 17 people dead, including students and teachers.

Students who survived the shooting have been among the most vocal proponents of new gun laws in the wake of the tragedy.

On Sunday, Parkland student Jaclyn Corin wrote on Twitter she and other students are heading to the state's capital city, Tallahassee, to rally for state gun reform on Tuesday.

The students are uniting under the hashtag #NeverAgain.

The students are also planning a "March for Our Lives" in Washington, DC, to rally for gun control laws on March 24.

They are encouraging kids and supporters to rally with them in DC, or in their hometowns on that day. Students are also planning to walk out of their classrooms on April 20, the 19th anniversary of Columbine.

Until Monday, Trump had been largely silent about the calls for an increase in gun control laws. Over the weekend, he attacked the FBI for "spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign," rather than investigating the alleged shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported the president had been watching coverage of Parkland students speaking out against guns from his Mar-a-Lago club, and had been asking members if they thought he should push for gun control measures.

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