WASHINGTON — The second-ranking House Republican said Tuesday that he supports improving federal background checks for gun buyers, but stopped short of endorsing universal checks on all weapons purchases.
The comments by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., came as two GOP lawmakers announced plans to co-sponsor legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime. The moves signal potential openings for bipartisan compromise on gun control, a debate dominated by Democrats with little said or done by Republicans.
Cantor, giving the most specific comments on gun control by a GOP congressional leader since President Barack Obama outlined his proposals in late January, told CNN in an interview that lawmakers could consider adopting a plan implemented by Virginia following the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. Since the shooting, the state has linked mental health information to law enforcement databases used to conduct background checks for gun purchases.
"I think that we can take a lot of lessons from what Virginia did and put it in place at the federal level," Cantor told CNN.
But when asked, Cantor stopped short of saying he supported universal background checks, saying only that "I am for making sure that we increase the quality of information in the database that is in existence already."
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Cantor's comments "clearly opened the door for the House to move on meaningful legislation" to address gun violence.
Cummings and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Scott Rigell, R-Va., unveiled the first bipartisan gun-control bill introduced in the House since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The bill would make gun trafficking a federal crime and impose new penalties against gun "straw purchasers" who knowingly buy firearms for convicted criminals who are barred from buying their own weapons. It mirrors a bipartisan Senate bill introduced last week and was part of Obama's recent proposals.