Amid a national debate over U.S. gun laws in the wake of last week’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., President Trump on Thursday pledged action and laid out his ideas for school safety — even as the National Rifle Association is resisting calls for change.
“No better time to discuss it than right now,” Trump said during a meeting with state and local officials at the White House. “I think we’re making a lot of progress.”
The president said he saw “a great feeling, including at the NRA,” and among legislators of both parties, in favor of action.
Specifically, he endorsed increasing the minimum age, which is currently 18, for buying certain firearms.
“It should all be at 21,” Trump said. “And the NRA will back it.”
The NRA has yet to signal for any changes to current gun laws. On Wednesday, the gun lobby said it opposed any new legislation increasing the age requirement on firearm purchases.
The president said he was not concerned.
“They’re ready to do things, they want to do things,” Trump said. “You know, they’re good people. They’re patriots. They love this country.”
The president said lawmakers must tackle the issue of mental health, calling the suspected gunman in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a “sicko.”
Trump said he is pledging to take action on guns, “unlike” his predecessor, President Obama.
“For many years … people sitting in my position did not take action,” Trump said. “We’re going to take action.”
But Obama did take action, or tried to. Following the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., he created a task force to study possible actions and backed a bipartisan bill to expand background checks. But the legislation failed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. Obama called it a “pretty shameful day for Washington.” In 2016, Obama announced a series of executive actions to reduce gun violence.
At the White House Thursday, Trump said he “called many senators” the night before to gauge their support for expanded background checks.
“They’re into doing background checks that they wouldn’t be thinking about maybe two weeks ago,” the president said.
Earlier Thursday, Trump doubled down on the suggestion he made at a meeting Wednesday with school shooting survivors and family members that teachers and administrators ought to be armed.
In a series of tweets, Trump suggested giving guns to “adept teachers with military or special training experience” — or about 20 percent of U.S. teachers, he said — so that they could “immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”
“Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this,” Trump added. “Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!”
At the school safety meeting, Trump floated another idea: paying teachers “a little bit of a bonus” to carry guns.
“I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected,” the president said. “We have to harden our sites.”
Trump said that for would-be killers, gun-free zones — such as those at U.S. schools — “is like going in for ice cream.”
“We need offensive as well as defensive,” he said. “If we don’t have offensive measures within these schools, you’re just kidding yourselves, folks. … Unless you’re going to have offensive capability, you’re wasting your time.”
The president suggested violent imagery on the Internet and in video games are also to blame for shaping the thoughts of troubled teenagers.
“We have to look at the Internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it,” Trump said. “And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And you go one further step and that’s the movies.”
Trump also said he sees active shooter drills, which have been commonplace in schools since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, as a “very negative thing.”
“I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school,” Trump said. “I think it’s crazy. I think it’s very hard on children.”
Trump also turned his attention to other issues beyond school safety, including the Justice Department’s prosecution of MS-13 gang members.
“They’re killing people — not necessarily with guns, ’cause that’s not painful enough,” Trump said. “This is what they think. They want to do it painfully and they want to do it slowly. So they cut them up with knives. They don’t use guns, they use knives, because they want it to be a long, painful death.”
Trump deplored inaction by so-called sanctuary cities in California on assisting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in deporting MS-13 members. The president threatened to pull ICE from the state altogether.
“We’re getting no help from the state of California,” Trump said. “Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime nest like you would never see.”
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