(CNSNews.com) - Congressional Republicans and Democrats agree that the nation's background check system for gun purchases should be improved, but that's where the agreement ends.
"We want a debate on more than Fix NICS," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told a news conference on Tuesday. "Even in the reddest of states, universal background checks has overwhelming support," he added. And that's where Democrats, at the urging of student activists, want to take the debate.
Schumer said the Fix NICS bill co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is "a modest step, designed to address one component of gun safety."
"I support it," Schumer said. "But if that is all Congress does, we won't have done our job to keep America's families safe. We won't have kept our promise to these kids I met today, who think that this bill is fine, but certainly not enough. We will not have kept our promise to the American people to clean up gun violence, once and for all."
Fix NICS would improve and expand the information entered into the National Instant Background Check system. But Democrats want more than that.
Schumer said he and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida met with a group of survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Tuesday morning. He described the students as "amazing," "passionate," "brave," "committed" and "organized."
"This is not a temporary thing for them," Schumer said. "They are going all-out to help and make America safer. We in congress, Democrats and Republicans, owe it to these students to act, and act in a real and significant way.
Schumer said the students from Parkland don't like the term "comprehensive background checks" because they believe it falls short of "universal" background checks, which would apply to all gun sales, including private sales, not just those involving federally licensed firearms dealers.
"We all agreed that comprehensive -- the kids call it universal. They don't want to call it comprehensive because they think some people are trying to subvert broad universal background checks with the word comprehensive. So they said universal background checks is number one. We agree," Schumer said.
We should not design a bill for one particular problem, but we should design a bill that will help reduce the chances of all future gun shootings, and that means dealing with all of the loopholes that we have talked about.
We Democrats, at a minimum, believe we should be passing a universal background check legislation that assures that guns don't fall into the wrong hands. 90 percent of the American people are with us. The kids from Parkland are with us.
We Democrats have a number of other proposals that ought to be debated and voted in the Senate. Rather than just passing one narrow bill and moving on, we Democrats intend to push our Republican colleagues to have a real debate on gun safety, and pass meaningful measures that will address the wide range of problems that have led to an epidemic -- an epidemic of mass shootings in our country.
We hope, for the sake of the millions of the kids who attend school every day, that our Republican colleagues will buck the NRA and do the right thing. You can't solve this problem and please the NRA, and our Republican colleagues have to learn that. The American people already have. And the kids at Parkland already have.
Gun control opponents, including the National Rifle Association, note that the real goal of "universal" background checks is a national gun registry.
Gun control activists want the FBI to indefinitely retain the records of people who pass NICS checks to acquire guns. Right now, those records are kept by federally licensed firearms dealers, and there is no central "registry."