Lawmaker says US gun control movement pushing Congress to act

NEW YORK, March 25 (Reuters) - The youth-led U.S. gun control movement that flexed its public muscle with huge weekend rallies has already nudged Congress to enact minor firearms changes, but must remain active if it hopes to win more meaningful regulations, lawmakers said on Sunday.

The movement that erupted after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has generated a national conversation about gun rights and has chipped away at legislative gridlock on the issue, they said.

"The activism of these young people is actually changing the equation," Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, said a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied in Washington.

Tucked into a $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress passed last week were modest improvements to background checks for gun sales and an end to a ban on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studying the causes of gun violence.

RELATED: Hundreds of thousands attend March for Our Lives in Washington DC

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Hundreds of thousands attend March for Our Lives in Washington DC
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Students from Centreville, Virginia wear targets on their chests as they arrive for the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers, and parents are expected to gather for the anti-gun violence rally, spurred largely by the shooting that took place on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Students from Centreville, Virginia wear targets on their chests as they arrive for the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers, and parents are expected to gather for the anti-gun violence rally, spurred largely by the shooting that took place on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A student from Baltimore, Maryland, holds a protest sign during the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A student from Baltimore, Maryland, holds a protest sign during the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants hold up signs as students and gun control advocates hold the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
A woman wears a protest shirt as people arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A demonstrator arrives before students and gun control advocates hold the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters gather for the March for Our Lives rally along Pennsylvania Avenue March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers and parents gathered in Washington for the anti-gun violence rally organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead and 17 others wounded. More than 800 related events are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters arrive for the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers, and parents are expected to gather for the anti-gun violence rally, spurred largely by the shooting that took place on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters arrive for the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers, and parents are expected to gather for the anti-gun violence rally, spurred largely by the shooting that took place on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters arrive for the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers, and parents are expected to gather for the anti-gun violence rally, spurred largely by the shooting that took place on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters hold signs as they wait for the beginning of the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters Daisy Hernandez of Virginia (R) and Hunter Nguyen of Maryland (L) hold their hands up as they wait for the beginning of the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters gather for the March for Our Lives rally along Pennsylvania Avenue March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers and parents gathered in Washington for the anti-gun violence rally organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead and 17 others wounded. More than 800 related events are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Protesters gather for the March for Our Lives rally along Pennsylvania Avenue March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers and parents gathered in Washington for the anti-gun violence rally organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead and 17 others wounded. More than 800 related events are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a sign as people arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Angela Sitaras, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, holds a sign referring to the 17 students killed in the February 14 mass shooting at her high school as she rallies with thousands of other students and young people at the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Protesters raise signs during a "March For Our Lives" demonstration demanding gun control in New York City, U.S. March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Michael J. Weissman, 18, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, where a mass shooting occurred last February 14 that left 17 dead, carries a sign as he and other participants hold the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Participants hold up signs as students and gun control advocates hold the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Participants carry signs and show slogans on their hands as students and gun control advocates hold the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein TEMPLATE OUT.
Isabel White, an 8th grader who will go to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida next year, displays a banner as students and gun control advocates hold the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: The stage for the March for Our Lives rally is seen along Pennsylvania Ave NW as workers build the stage ahead of the March for Our Lives rally on Friday, March 23, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The US Capitol building is seen as people arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
The US Capitol building is seen as people arrive early for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
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"These are two things we could not have done in the past," Kaine said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "But the active engagement by young people convinced Congress we better do something."

The spending bill, which President Donald Trump signed on Friday, also includes grants to help schools prevent gun violence.

The Trump administration also took a step on Friday to ban the sale of bump stocks - devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns - that helped gunman Stephen Paddock massacre 58 people in Las Vegas in October.

A key focus of Saturday's march on Washington, which was duplicated in 800 cities across the country and around the world, was an effort to turn emotion into political activism by registering participants to vote.

Americans will vote in November on the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate.

Gun control advocates have called for universal background checks on people buying guns, bans on assault-style rifles such as the one used to kill 17 students and staff in Parkland, and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Senator Mark Warner, another Virginia Democrat, declared in the wake of the student-led movement that he would now support bans on such rifles and magazines, which he had voted against in recent years.

"I think it's time to change our positions and re-examine them," Warner said on the CBS News "Face the Nation" program.

"I think this time it's going different," Warner said. "I think we can actually get it done."

To win significant changes, lawmakers said the young gun control advocates need to maintain their drive in the face of powerful pro-gun lobbying by the National Rifle Association and those who see gun ownership as a right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

"If they don't keep it up, those that want no change will just sit on their hands," Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican who formerly served in Congress, said on CNN.

Two Republican senators, Marco Rubio of Florida and Joni Ernst of Iowa, said over the weekend that while they supported gun control advocates' right to protest, they opposed infringing on the constitutional right to bear arms.

Meanwhile, former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum drew an angry response on social media for saying on CNN that, instead of agitating for change, students should "do something about maybe taking CPR classes" or take other training to respond to school shooters.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely Editing by Paul Simao)

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