How a president responds to a tragedy says a lot about their leadership style, and Trump's response to the Parkland, Florida shooting has been predictable behavior for the former reality TV host. Trump reportedly surveyed Mar-a-Lago members about gun control, specifically whether or not he should support reform just days after 17 people were killed at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School. Trump also told club members he was closely monitoring survivors' media appearances, according to The Washington Post.
Trump traveled to Florida to visit survivors and first responders over the weekend, staying at his Palm Beach resort as he normally does while visiting the Sunshine State. He was criticized for giving a thumbs-up in photos with medical staff and smiling in pictures with survivors, as well as attending a party at Mar-a-Lago after meeting with them. However, he also was reportedly mulling over what his political response to the mass shooting should be by asking club members their opinion.
While it's unclear what the consensus on gun control was among Mar-a-Lago guests, the White House said on Monday that Trump is "open" to improving federal background check legislation. "While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) previously introduced a bill aimed at making the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) run more smoothly. The Fix NICS Act would incentivize agencies to regularly update the NICS with people who are legally prohibited from buying a gun, including people with a criminal record.
"For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence," Cornyn said in a November statement on his bill. "Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy, as the country saw last week in Sutherland Springs, Texas."
The gunman who killed 26 people in the Texas church should have been prevented from buying a firearm because he was kicked out of the military for allegedly assaulting his wife. However, the Air Force failed to submitted his records to the FBI's background check system.
Murphy tweeted Monday that Trump’s support for the bill “is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly,” adding, “No one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic.”
While Murphy and other advocates for stronger gun control want to see more extreme action taken to prevent future mass shootings, the background check legislation has a better chance of gaining bipartisan support in Congress than restrictions specifically targeting gun sales.
Outside of White House statements that Trump is "supportive" of efforts streamline the federal background check system, he has not publicly called for gun reform. The National Rifle Association spent more than $21 million to help get Trump elected in 2016, and he ran on a strong pro-gun platform. While claiming Hillary Clinton wanted to "abolish" the Second Amendment just after he received the NRA's endorsement, Trump said, "We're going to preserve it, we're going to cherish it."
In February 2017, he rolled back an Obama-era rule prohibiting some people with mental health conditions from buying weapons. “It is correct to state that there is no inherent connection between being mentally ill and being dangerous,” Murphy said while advocating for the measure. “But the risk here is not just that an individual is going to buy a gun and use it themselves. The risk is that someone who can’t literally deposit their own paycheck probably can’t, or likely can’t, responsibly own and protect a gun.”
As Parkland survivors and other gun control activists call on Congress and state politicians to make it more difficult for dangerous people to buy deadly weapons, it's unclear how much support Trump will show for improving the background check system.