- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2018

A key senator said Friday the Senate should expand its looming gun debate beyond background check improvements to also include giving the administration authority to ban bump stocks.

But Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, was more skeptical of efforts to raise the legal age for buying rifles from 18 to 21, saying that seemed an “arbitrary” line.

Mr. Cornyn, a key figure in the debate, is both a prominent Second Amendment supporter and the chief sponsor of the bipartisan bill to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by pressing federal agencies to make sure all of their records on banned buyers are actually included in the system.

He said the Senate was already preparing for action on his bill, the Fix NICS Act, but President Trump’s reaction to this month’s shooting in Florida clears a path to also include restrictions on the sale of bump stocks.

“With what the president proposed on bump stocks is seems to me that is easier to deal with,” Mr. Cornyn told The Washington Times. “It may be as simple as just providing explicit authority to the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to regulate bump stocks.”

Democrats have called for even broader changes.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is driving the bump stock ban, has also called for raising the age for buying rifles and shotguns to 21.

The current age limit for long gun purchases is 18 — though buyers must be 21 to buy handguns.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, meanwhile, has said the debate should go even broader and impose “universal background checks.” That could entail requiring every gun transaction, including by non-licensed dealers, to have to be put through NICS.

Mr. Schumer called expanded background checks Democrats’ “No. 1 priority” for the upcoming gun debate.

Gun-rights backers have questioned how a “universal” background check mandate would play out.

The last three major shooting incidents have each raised different questions about access to guns.

The Las Vegas shooter used a bump stock, which may have increased the lethality of his attack. Meanwhile the man who went on a killing spree at a Texas church could have been denied his gun purchase had the military reported a domestic violence conviction to NICS.

Those incidents spurred Mr. Cornyn’s Fix NICS legislation and Mr. Trump’s call for changes on bump stocks.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to do something that is a panacea, but those strike me as a good place to start,” Mr. Cornyn said.

The Florida shooting raises different questions. The FBI has admitted it didn’t follow up on complaints about the accused gunman ahead of the shooting.

And his age — he is 19 — has spurred questions about limits on the ability to purchase an AR-15-style rifle like the one used in the shooting.

Mr. Trump has said he backs raising the age limit for rifle purchases to 21, but Mr. Cornyn was skeptical of that move.

“If you can be enlisted in the military at 18 I’m not sure I understand the 21 age. I think there are better ways to address it than just an arbitrary age increase,” he said.

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