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After Florida Shooting, There's A Renewed Push To Change Gun Laws

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Florida high school students pushing for gun control this week include at least one student who was against it a week ago. Kyle Kashuv is one of the students from Parkland, Fla., who traveled to the state capitol yesterday.

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KYLE KASHUV: I've been a strong Trump supporter. Someone like myself has been able to go to the middle ground and understand that there needs to be changes. That's great. And it really shows how important what we're doing right now is.

INSKEEP: Florida's legislature turned aside an effort to ban assault-style rifles yesterday. But in Washington, President Trump told his administration to speed up an effort to ban bump stocks. And he meets today with people affected by shootings. NPR's Greg Allen is in Florida. NPR's Tamara Keith is in Washington. They're both with us. Good morning, guys.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So, Greg, what does it mean when Florida's governor, Rick Scott, Republican governor, says everything is on the table when it comes to gun policy?

ALLEN: Well, someone asked him yesterday, does that include, you know, assault weapons, possibly a ban? And he said everything's on the table in response to that. But that, you know, as you note, did not pass yesterday, was rejected on a party-line vote. They're looking at things like raising the sales of all firearms to age 21 or maybe having a waiting period, having stronger background checks, finding a way to take guns out of the hands of people who've been found to be a menace, a threat to themselves or others, so things that would actually tighten gun laws here, which is very unusual in Florida. We haven't done that in many years.

INSKEEP: And the age restriction would apply to this particular shooting because we had someone who's under 21 who legally bought an AR-15.

ALLEN: Right. Right now, you can buy a handgun - you can't buy a handgun till you're 21, but you can buy a long gun like an AR-15 at age 18.

INSKEEP: OK, so at least some discussion of changes in Florida. And, Tamara, what about in Washington? What is the president specifically proposing to do?

KEITH: So he is proposing that the ATF put in place a rule on these devices known as bump stocks. These are devices that make a semiautomatic weapon function more like an automatic weapon. It's not clear that ATF can actually do that because it's found that it doesn't have the authority or jurisdiction to do it. The president is also saying...

INSKEEP: Oh, we're talking about the devices that were used in Las Vegas when a shooter had multiple weapons. It appeared that he had used bump stocks to effectively turn a semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun.

KEITH: Exactly. And the other thing that the president is talking about is something that came up after the mass shooting in Texas in November, and that is legislation that would basically tell state and federal agencies, hey, follow the existing background check laws. Put that stuff in the system so that people who shouldn't have weapons can't get them.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask you both because you're following Republicans at the state and at the federal level. And Republicans are key here because they're in power and because they have been passionately opposed to gun control on a Second Amendment basis. And so here's a question. If you have the governor saying everything is on the table but the legislature's saying no, if you have the president's saying let's move on this issue but it's not clear that he legally can, has anything fundamentally changed for Republicans who just don't believe gun control is right or is effective? Have they changed their views? Let me hear from each of you briefly.

ALLEN: I'll begin and say, you know, in Florida, I think there has been a significant change. It might not be enough to actually get the attention of Democrats or people who are in favor of more gun control because they're not going to go for these measures like banning assault, you know, these long guns, high-powered assault-style weapons. That's not going to happen here in Florida, I don't think, as has happened in other states. It could happen eventually but not today. But they have changed as a result of that shooting. I mean, you're talking about - hearing from - the gun lobbyists here are keeping a very low profile. Bills that were up have been postponed that would expand gun rights. And they are moving - at least starting to move slowly in the other direction.

INSKEEP: Tamara?

KEITH: And certainly, President Trump and the White House feel like they need to do something. The things that they're talking about doing, I think there's a debate about whether strictly speaking that is gun control. Bump stocks are not guns. They're accessories, devices put on guns. And the thing that the president is saying he's supportive of in terms of background checks doesn't actually expand background checks in any way. But there's also some talk in Congress that maybe the legislation in 2013 after Sandy Hook that would have expanded background checks that ultimately failed in the Senate, maybe it has a chance again.

INSKEEP: Tamara Keith and Greg Allen, thanks to you both.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.