WASHINGTON-Last week's school shooting in Parkland, Fla., left 17 dead and has since evoked uncommon political attention from politicians-from President Donald Trump to leaders in North Dakota and Minnesota, many of whom say they're open to change.
But what that change will look like is still hard to say.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is open to an age-21 purchasing requirement for assault weapons. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is open to arming teachers based on ability and comfort with the idea. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., favors ownership restrictions for domestic abusers. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., would ban "high-capacity magazines" and reinstate a ban on "military-style" weapons.
"Like all Minnesotans, I was horrified by the shooting," Smith said in a statement provided by her office. "There's no reason for Congress not to act in the wake of these horrific and alarmingly frequent tragedies. We owe it to the victims and their families."
The Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland has remained in headlines as politicians have been forced to confront a growing cohort of shooting survivors-turned-activists, their voices now amplified by students from Parkland who remain vocal online and in the media. They've had emotionally charged exchanges with politicians this week, including with President Trump.
"I think it started a national discussion," Cramer said of the White House session, praising Trump for taking a political risk to meet publicly with those affected by mass shootings. Cramer is open to limits on "bump stocks," which modify a weapon to make it fully automatic, and supports new legislation strengthening national background-checking systems used in the firearm-purchasing process. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., supports the same legislation, calling it a way to both keep guns out of the wrong hands and honor the Second Amendment.
Politicians from both Minn. and N.D. have accepted donations from pro-gun groups. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "gun rights" organizations-a term it uses for the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, Gun Owners of America and more-have given leaders tens of thousands of dollars. The Center's database shows that, since 2013, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has received $30,400 from such groups; Cramer has received $26,013; Peterson has received $24,700; and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has received $8,000. Klobuchar has received $2,000.
Smith, who was appointed to her office in January, is not listed as a recipient.
Peterson, a Democrat serving in an district Trump carried in 2016, struck a centrist tone on the issue. He said "both sides" on the gun debate are entrenched in "radical positions," with his own party focused on the NRA and assault weapons-the latter of which is hard to define and thus, he argues, difficult to regulate. Many of his constituents, he said, feel that some gun legislation unfairly targets their responsible gun ownership. Some opponents of guns, he said, have little experience with them.
"If I have to watch one more person on TV talk about high-powered military-style assault weapons, and nobody should be able to buy these weapons-well, a .223 is ... one of the least powerful cartridges that are out there," he said.
Heitkamp struck a similar tone, calling in a statement for a "conversation in Congress about long-term solutions to gun violence." She said she's encouraged by the president's apparent enthusiasm for such a discussion, though she opposes arming teachers.
No matter how Congress acts, members seem to sense a newfound urgency.
"Students in Minnesota, Florida, and across the country have boldly gone out, gotten involved, and taken action," Klobuchar said in a prepared statement. "It is time Congress do the same and bring these solutions up for a vote-they will save lives."
Forum Communications Co. Reporter Patrick Springer contributed to this report.