House Speaker Paul Ryan signaled Tuesday he isn’t supportive of the proposals to impose new restrictions on gun purchases, telling reporters “we shouldn’t be banning guns for law abiding citizens.”
During a weekly news conference in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people, the Wisconsin Republican added, “we should be focusing on making sure that citizens who shouldn’t get guns in the first place don’t get those guns.”
Instead, the speaker focused on narrow legislation to address gaps in the database used to process guns sales that he noted the House already approved.
“We do know there are gaps in the background check system that need to be plugged,” he said. “We passed a bill to do that and we think that should get done clearly.”
The House-passed bill was attached to another a proposal that loosens gun regulations and allows those with permits to carry concealed weapons to legally travel with those firearms to other states, a top priority of the National Rifle Association and something that many congressional observers say won’t get the 60 votes it needs to get through the Senate.
Ryan also emphasized the failure by law enforcement to respond to reports about the shooter.
“We see a big breakdown in the system here,” he said. “In this particular case, there were a lot of breakdowns – from local law enforcement, to the FBI getting tips they didn’t follow up on, to you know, school resource officers, who are trained to protect kids in these schools and who didn’t do that. That, to me, is the most stunning one of them all.”
He stressed that Congress would be investigating the series of missed tips and reports that were flagged to law enforcement agencies about the confessed shooter, Nikolas Cruz. He said he met with first responders in Broward County in the days after the shooting to hear about what happened.
Asked about arming teachers, Ryan suggested that the issue was not something Congress should take the lead on.
“As a parent myself and as a citizen, I think it’s a good idea, but as speaker of the House, I think we need to respect federalism and respect local jurisdictions,” he said.
Pressed about whether Congress was doing enough as students from the Florida high school make the rounds on Capitol Hill to urge top leaders to take action, Ryan again pointed to the problems preventing the incident, saying there was “a colossal breakdown” at the local level.
“Of course we want to listen to these kids, but we also want to make sure that we protect people’s due process rights and legal constitutional rights while making sure that people who should not get guns don’t get them,” Ryan replied. “This kid was clearly one of those people.”
The speaker pointed to larger questions about the culture and mental health laws that led to the troubled gunman to attack the school, saying, “There’s bigger questions here than a narrow law.”