Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is taking a cautious approach to the latest gun rights debate after a teen killed 17 former classmates in Parkland, Fla., last week.
The Republican on Tuesday outlined three steps he wants Congress to take in the aftermath of the country’s latest mass shooting, but he steered clear of discussing background checks, “bump stocks” and some of the other hot-button proposals that have surfaced in recent days.
“Number one, enforce the laws that we’ve got,” Isakson said during a speech at the Atlanta Press Club. “Number two, find out why we’re having so many people fall through the cracks on the mental health system. Number three, look at everything that’s being done around the world making us safer.”
Isakson, who received an “A” rating from the NRA during his last campaign, said the decision about whether teachers should be able to bring firearms into schools should be left to the states. But he suggested he was open to arming more security officers stationed at schools.
Isakson's comments came hours before the White House indicated it was open to discussing a range of gun restrictions with congressional Democrats in the weeks and months ahead – a significant departure from the Republican line in recent years.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday didn’t immediately dismiss an assault weapons ban. Ditto for the possibility of new age limits for purchasing semiautomatic assault rifles like the AR-15, the weapon used in last week’s shootings in Florida.
President Donald Trump this week also announced his support for a Republican bill tightening background checks and signed a memo ordering the Justice Department to craft regulations banning so-called “bump stocks,” devices that enable semi-automatic firearms to fire at a faster rate.
Isakson and his Georgia Republican David Perdue said they were open to legislation banning such devices after last year's shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival, but Congress has yet to act on the issue.
As for background checks, Isakson voted against a bipartisan proposal in 2013 following the Newtown massacre that would have subjected nearly all gun buyers to such a review. He told CBS at the time that he worried it might "violate rights to privacy in terms of mental health."
As for whether he would support a ban for assault rifles, Isakson on Tuesday stuck to the GOP position that the courts ruled that they’re covered by the Second Amendment.
“What we need to do is enforce the laws that we can, that have been ruled on by the Supreme Court,” he said.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com