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Treasury Secretary Mnuchin asks Congress to 'look at' gun violence after Florida shooting

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urges lawmakers to think about possible solutions to gun violence after the high school massacre in Florida.
  • Congress has taken little concrete action after recent mass shootings.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked Congress on Thursday to consider possible solutions to gun violence following a massacre at a high school in Florida.

"I will say personally, I think the gun violence — it's a tragedy what we've seen yesterday, and I'd urge Congress to look at these issues," Mnuchin said at an unrelated House hearing on the White House's fiscal year 2019 budget request.

The Treasury Department later told Politico that Mnuchin did not refer to whether Congress should think about changing gun laws. He was responding specifically to a question from Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., about whether funds in the federal budget were set aside to address gun violence, the agency said.

Lewis pressed Mnuchin about what the White House might do in response to the latest mass shooting in the United States. While Mnuchin acknowledged that gun policy is "out of my lane of responsibilities," he said he would speak to President Donald Trump and other Cabinet members about the issue.

Trump and other Republican leaders have resisted calls to tighten federal gun laws.

Authorities believe a gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle in the Parkland, Florida, high school, killing 17 people and wounding 14 others. The 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The shooting — just the latest among numerous mass killings with guns in the United States — reignited a national debate about access to assault weapons and possible changes to gun control laws. While Mnuchin urged Congress to consider possible solutions, Trump has not done so in the past.

Last February, Trump quietly signed a bill to scrap an Obama-era regulation making it tougher for people with mental illnesses to buy a gun. On Thursday morning, he tweeted that signs emerged that Cruz was "mentally disturbed" and questioned why his classmates and community did not report him to authorities.

Congress has taken few concrete steps to address gun violence after recent massacres. While some momentum built to ban a device used to increase the firing rate of rifles last year, no legislation to do so made significant progress in the GOP-controlled Congress.

A shooter who carried out the deadliest gun massacre in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas last year used the so-called bump stock tool.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a round of interviews Thursday that the Florida massacre should not lead to "taking away citizens' rights" to own guns.

"I don't think that means you then roll that conversation into taking away citizens' rights – taking away a law-abiding citizen's rights," Ryan said in one interview. "Obviously, this conversation typically goes there. Right now, I think we need to take a breath and collect the facts."

— Reuters contributed to this article.