Congress is considering attaching a narrow background check bill for gun purchases to a must-pass government funding package before the end of the week, when thousands of high school students are expected to congregate in Washington for the March to End Gun Violence.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday said leadership was talking to its members about adding the background legislation, even as news broke of a new school shooting on Tuesday morning in Maryland.
“That’s something we’re discussing with our colleagues,” Ryan told reporters in the Capitol, referring to the bipartisan Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background System) Act.
“I think we should do Fix NICS. I agree with Fix NICS,” Ryan added. “That’s something we’re discussing with our friends on the other side of the aisle.”
The House had already approved the background checks bill, but it paired the measure with concealed carry legislation that allows people with concealed weapons to take them across state lines.
Gun rights supporters generally back the Fix NICS bill, but it would be a disappointment to the NRA and conservatives if that bill was separated from the concealed carry legislation, which is a top NRA priority.
House conservatives say GOP leaders promised them that the two issues would not be delinked. But they are growing increasingly concerned that the standalone measure, which now has over 70 co-sponsors in the Senate, may wind up in the final government funding package.
“I would suspect” Fix NICS gets added, said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus. “That’s my reading of the tea leaves.”
Lawmakers have been under increasing pressure to curb gun violence since a deadly school shooting in Florida last month — a sense that was further amplified by the Maryland shooting.
Congress has taken no action since the Florida shootings, and will be in the spotlight on Saturday when marches and rallies are scheduled to take place across the country.
President Trump has called on Congress to pass Fix NICS, which would encourage states to report more frequently to the criminal background database for gun purchases. The bill would not expand background checks.
Lawmakers are racing to wrap up work on the funding measure, which they hope to release Tuesday and consider on the House floor Thursday.