In the wake of the shooting deaths of 17 persons in Parkland, Florida, last week, President Donald Trump is in discussions about legislation that would improve federal background checks for firearms purchases, having called for tackling the “difficult issue of mental health.” According to a statement released by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Sunday, “The President spoke to Senator [John] Cornyn on Friday about the bipartisan bill he and Sen. [Chris] Murphy introduced to improve Federal Compliance with Criminal Background check Legislation.” Furthermore, the statement said, “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.”

Trump has also focused on the mental health issues that came to the fore when more information was made public about the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz. Also, the FBI has been widely condemned because there was little apparent action by the agency to alert local authorities before Cruz was allowed to purchased at least two rifles, despite having a history of mental illness, run-ins with the law, and expulsion from the high school where he later carried out a mass murder. Cruz is alleged to have posted comments on social media in which he said he wanted to be a “professional school shooter,” as well as photos of his weapons. Cruz used an AR-15 style rifle, bringing with him several magazines into the school

Mass protests ensued over the weekend in Fort Lauderdale, where students and activists demanded the banning of AR-15 rifles, while calling for tighter gun controls. Some are planning a mass demonstration or march on Washington to express their repudiation of violence and their demand for reforming federal gun laws. 

While expressing his condolences to victims’ families on Thursday, Trump vowed that he would cooperate with local and state authorities “to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” While he did not mention firearms specifically, Trump said, “We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life.” The president that such a culture should create “deep and meaningful human connections, and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors.”

Almost ten years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority in the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the District of Columbia, et al. v. Dick Anthony Heller case. In a 5-4 opinion, the high court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution extends not only to militias, but also to individuals seeking to defend themselves at home. Scalia, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, wrote: "Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

Scalia wrote that "like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." It is "not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

For the majority, Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. dissenting were David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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