Cornyn gun bill a good first step

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn fought long and hard to pass the Fix NICS Act.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn fought long and hard to pass the Fix NICS Act. AP Photo

After a gunman killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, Texas Sen. John Cornyn could be found in the U..S. Senate fighting to toughen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for gun purchases.

His advocacy came after a sniper gunned down 58 people in Nevada in October and another wielded a semi-automatic weapon and massacred 26 at a tiny Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs near San Antonio.

Last week Cornyn, Majority Whip and the second most powerful Republican in the Senate, was victorious when his effort to beef up background checks was included in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.

Cornyn is to be congratulated for his efforts, but the fact he had to fight so hard and so long for such a modest bill — one that enforces existing law — is an indication of how stuck in the mud the gun control debate is. It's not the kind of landscape altering change being sought by the hundreds of thousands of youth who marched against gun violence over the weekend.

Cornyn’sFix NICS Actensures relevant records from federal agencies, law enforcement and states are uploaded in a timely manner. It also will make mental health records a part of the system and it creates financial incentives for agencies to share information.

Coryn's fix enjoyed broad bipartisan backing. But to keep that support Cornyn backed away from giving the bill more teeth by requiring background checks for firearms sold at gun shows or on the Internet.

In another sign of how tough it is to pass broader gun control legislation, Cornyn couldn’t get a separate vote on his bill. Instead, it was folded into a spending measure that prevented a government shutdown. That bill also included $2.3 billion for school safety programs including $58 million to buy metal detectors and more money for mental health programs and training.

Cornyn’s bill and the additional money for schools is a good start. But the students who hit the streets in the "March for Our Lives" rallies Saturday — including up to 8,000 in downtown Fort Worth — want Congress to do more. Their frustration with lawmakers could be seen in their faces and heard in their voices.

These protests, described as the biggest youth protest since the Vietnam War, can't be ignored.

Now, let’s talk about the hard stuff: doing away with bump stocks; imposing an age limit on who can buy an automatic weapon; reinstating a ban on the purchase of assault rifles.

That’s leadership.