WASHINGTON (CN) – Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida returned to class Wednesday and began their day by holding a moment of silence for the 16 students and one teacher killed two weeks ago in a hail of gunfire near the end of what had otherwise been a normal school day.
The tragedy in Parkland was the 18th school shooting this year. Over the past 17 years, there have been more than 185 shootings at schools and universities, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.
But this time, the response has been different. In the 14 days since Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly set off a school fire alarm and gunned down victims as they left their classrooms, their fellow students and scores of others around the country have staged walkouts and other protests demanding that lawmakers and the Trump administration do something to curb the epidemic of violence.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump responded by convening lawmakers at the White House and pushed for tougher background checks, better school safety and more mental health resources to prevent shootings.
"We can't wait and play games and nothing gets done," Trump said as he opened the session with 17 House and Senate lawmakers. "We want to stop the problems."
Trump particularly cited the need for stronger background checks, which have been resisted by Republicans in Congress and the National Rifle Association. But the president said he told NRA officials over lunch recently that changes in gun culture are needed.
"Hey, I'm the biggest fan of the Second Amendment," Trump said.
"It's time," he said he told the NRA officials. "We have to stop this nonsense."
Among those joining the president Wednesday were Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, of California, Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota.
All are lead sponsors of the Fix NICS Act, legislation that would both strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s verification process for gun purchases, and put pressure on state and federal agencies to improve their recordkeeping or face stiff penalties.
Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., who also attended the summit, introduced similar legislation following the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 students and six adults dead.
Their bill failed after it was introduced in 2013, and failed again after it was reintroduced two years later.
The fate of proposed Fix NICS Act is hard to predict.
House Speaker Paul Ryan did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Courthouse News, but it is widely reported he is resistant to the idea of an assault weapon ban or stricter rules for gun owners.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Associated Press while the summit “showed some progress toward dealing with one element of the problem,” background check restrictions would not be a “panacea.”
Judging from his public statements, the lukewarm response of congressional leaders likely won't sit well with the president.
"We have to have action," Trump told the National Governor's Association earlier this week. "We don't have any action.
"A week goes by, 'let's keep talking.' Another week goes by and we keep talking," the president said. "Two months go by -- all of the sudden, everybody is off to the next subject. Then when it happens again, everybody is angry and it’s ‘let’s start talking again.”