White House voices support for background check bill after Florida shooting

WASHINGTON -- The White House said Monday President Trump is open to the possibility of supporting bipartisan legislation to strengthen the federal background check system.

The White House on Monday said President Trump would be open to supporting a bipartisan bill in Congress aimed at improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the federal database used for background checks in gun purchases.

The bill, known as the "Fix NICS Act," was introduced in November, after Devin Kelley shot and killed 26 people in a Texas church. Kelley had been convicted of domestic violence and received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, which should have prevented him from ever buying a gun. But the Air Force failed to send the information to the FBI database.

The bill before Congress is intended to put systems in place to make sure that kind of oversight doesn't happen again.

"Dangerous people who law enforcement and their own family members are flagging, as the case here, should never have access to a deadly weapon of that sort," said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman. "We want to make sure that we can do that in the proper way."

But it's not at all clear the bill would have prevented the Florida school shooter from buying his gun.

Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale Feb. 19, 2018
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale Feb. 19, 2018. Reuters/Mike Stocker/Pool

Many Democrats are calling for a new ban on so-called assault weapons like the AR-15. But in an interview with CBS affiliate WFOR-TV, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio compared the proliferation of assault weapons to that of nuclear weapons Monday, arguing that a ban would be useless with so many already in circulation.

"There are millions already on the streets," Rubio said. "They are here to stay. That genie is out of the bottle. The same argument is get rid of all nuclear weapons. We could, but China is not. Russia is not."

Mr. Trump supported a ban on assault weapons in 2000 and criticized Republicans who "walk the NRA line." But as a candidate for president in 2016, he got in line with the NRA himself and opposed the ban.

In a tweet over the weekend, the president blamed the FBI for "missing all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter" and accused the FBI of "spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign."

On Wednesday, the president is scheduled to meet with high school students for what is being billed as a "listening session." If the students who participate are anything like the ones in Parkland, Florida, the chances are fairly good that the president will get an earful.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.