At the end of a lengthy Twitter tirade defending his comments on arming teachers, President Donald Trump issued a policy suggestion not seen proffered by Republicans in some time: Raising the minimum age to purchase AR-15-type rifles.
I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
Trump also proposed strengthening background checks. Comprehensive background checks have been a white whale of Congress, ever since an attempt to widen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) failed in the wake of Columbine, and then again after Newtown. Additional funding to the NICS was granted in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, but a great majority of that money was never distributed.
Trump’s proposal on age—if passed—could also have a profound effect. While the age of mass shooters armed with long guns vary—Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, was 19 when he legally purchased his weapons and Stephen Paddock, the Vegas shooter, was 64—in the age of mass shootings, no tangible efforts to reform America’s gun culture have ever succeeded.
Federal law prohibits the sale of handguns to people under 21 by licensed dealers, but long guns can be purchased at the age of 18. Raising the minimum age to purchase a long gun would be a massive step by Congress and the president to enacting laws that address American gun culture.
Days after Parkland, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—the author of the 1994 assault weapons ban—introduced a bill to raise the minimum age to purchase long guns.