A Republican senator long supported by the National Rifle Association said Thursday that there should be an age limit on buying the AR-15, the assault rifle used in last week’s deadly Florida school shooting — putting him at odds with the gun rights organization.
Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) told reporters at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka that he thinks Congress will act to place restrictions on who can buy an AR-15 rifle.
“This is an opportunity, if you look at these youngsters who are so emotionally tied in to this grief of losing their friends — but it’s more than gun control. But I think we’re ready as a Congress to actually pass something, and I think it’s going to be better background checks. Certainly nobody under 21 should have an AR-15,” he said, according to local reports.
“I don’t know why anybody would want an AR-15 unless they’re going to take one out on the shooting range,” he continued.
The NRA opposes age restrictions for the purchase of firearms, although Roberts mentioned only the AR-15.
NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said this week that increasing the age requirement for the purchase of shotguns and rifles from 18 to 21 would punish “law-abiding citizens for the evil acts of criminals.”
According to the Associated Press, Roberts is the 13th-highest beneficiary of NRA money in Congress, with $1.58 million donated to him over his 32 years in the House and the Senate, in the form of direct donations and money spent independently by the NRA to support his campaigns.
Roberts’s comments came as President Trump on Thursday tweeted his support for raising age limits for the purchase of some weapons.
I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
But White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters Thursday afternoon that Trump is “in a listening phase” when it comes to setting age limits for the purchase of semiautomatic weapons.
It is unclear what legislation, if any, Congress might consider in the coming days to address concerns about school violence and growing calls for new gun-control measures. The House and the Senate reconvene Monday evening after a week-long Presidents’ Day recess, but the House is scheduled to be in session only through Tuesday night, out of respect for the Rev. Billy Graham, who is set to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda next Wednesday and Thursday.