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Trump to Discuss Florida School Shooting With Governors

President Donald Trump says this month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school will be a key focus Monday as governors from across the country meet in Washington.

“I think we’ll make that first on our list, because we have to end our country of what’s happening with respect to that subject,” he said during a welcome event Sunday night.

Individual states have varying gun laws, and could take yet different approaches in deciding whether and how to enact any new gun controls. The federal government could take its own action, and lawmakers in the House and Senate return to work Monday after a week-long holiday recess back in their home districts.

The U.S. debate over the proper response to try to thwart future school shootings is intensifying, but whether the killings will move Congress to act is open to question. In a country where the U.S. Constitution enshrines gun ownership, lawmakers have been loathe to impose tougher gun controls, even in the face of previous mass shootings in recent years.

Watch: US Lawmakers Face Pressure to Stem Gun Violence

President Trump has suggested arming some gun-adept teachers and paying them a bonus to keep a concealed weapon at the ready to confront a shooter.

A small number of local school districts in the U.S. have already instituted such a system of classroom protection, but numerous national educators are opposed to the idea. Trump also has said he favors increasing the legal age for all gun purchases from 18 to 21, an idea adamantly opposed by the country’s powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.

Trump said he would leave it up to individual states to decide whether to arm teachers. But Rick Scott, the governor of Florida where the shooting occurred and a supporter of Trump, said he opposes the idea.

“I disagree with arming teachers. My focus is on bringing in law enforcement,” Scott said. “Let law enforcement keep us safe, and let teachers focus on teaching.”

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch told ABC News, “If parents and teachers voluntarily choose to be armed, I think that’s something schools will have to come up with and determine for themselves.”

CNN said its latest national poll shows growing support for more expansive gun controls, with 70 percent favoring new restrictions, compared to 52 percent in an October poll not long after a mass shooting in Las Vegas killed 58 people.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to the campus for the first time Sunday since a gunman killed 17 people on February 14.

Classes are scheduled to resume Wednesday, but students were allowed to come back and retrieve what they left behind as they fled the shooting.

“It’s not like you’re going back just to see your friends. You’re going back to see people that are traumatized for the rest of their lives,” said student Navid Rafiee.

The sheriff of the county where the shooting took place vowed Sunday to investigate every aspect of his department’s response as the attack unfolded as well as numerous missed signals it received about the suspected gunman’s volatility in the weeks beforehand.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told CNN, “We will investigate every action of our deputies.”

But he heaped scorn on one of them, Scot Peterson, the veteran lawman who stayed outside the Parkland, Fla., high school two weeks ago rather than charging inside to confront the shooter.

“It makes me sick to my stomach that he didn’t go in,” Israel said of Peterson, calling his actions “dereliction of duty.” Israel said that when he saw the video of Peterson outside the school during the shooting, he suspended him without pay last week. Peterson has resigned.

Israel said Broward internal investigators are looking at reports that at least three other deputies also arrived on the scene without entering the school while the attack was unfolding. In addition, he said investigators are reviewing 18 calls to the Broward sheriff’s office about 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz in the weeks before the shooting, in which callers said they believed he was amassing an arsenal and was a threat to carry out an attack on a school.

“One deputy was remiss. Everything else is fluid,” Israel said. “We understand everything wasn’t done perfectly.”

One Florida lawmaker called for Israel’s resignation, but the sheriff said he would not quit. Israel said he has given “amazing leadership” to his agency.

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Interior Secretary Alters His Overhaul Plans After Governors Push Back

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revamped a plan for a sweeping overhaul of his department Friday with a new organizational map that more closely follows state lines instead of the natural boundaries he initially proposed.

The changes follow complaints from a bipartisan group of Western state governors that Zinke did not consult them before unveiling his original plan last month. The agency oversees vast public lands, primarily in the U.S. West, ranging from protected national parks and wildlife refuges to areas where coal mining and energy exploration dominate the landscape.

Zinke said in an interview with The Associated Press that his goal remains unchanged: decentralizing the Interior Department’s bureaucracy and creating 13 regional headquarters.

Regional map redrawn

The redrawn map, obtained by AP, shows that states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming would fall within a single region instead of being split among multiple regions. Other states remain divided, including California, Nevada, Montana and Oregon.

Aspects of the original map remain, with some regions labeled according to river systems, such as the Upper Colorado Basin and the Missouri Basin. But the new lines tend to cut across geographic features and follow state lines, not boundaries of rivers and ecosystems.

The new proposal resulted from discussions with governors, members of Congress and senior leaders at the agency, Interior officials said.

Many department changes

Zinke, a former Republican congressman from Montana, has imposed major changes at the 70,000-employee Interior Department. He has rolled back regulations considered burdensome to the oil and gas industry and reassigned dozens of senior officials who were holdovers from President Barack Obama’s administration.

The vision of retooling the department’s bureaucracy plays into longstanding calls from politicians in the American West to shift more decisions about nearly 700,000 square miles (more than 1.8 million square kilometers) of public lands under Interior oversight to officials in the region.

Some Democrats have speculated that Zinke’s true motivation for the overhaul is to gut the department, noting that more than 90 percent of its employees work outside Washington, D.C.

Zinke contends that he’s trying to streamline Interior’s management of public lands by requiring all of the agencies within the department to use common regional boundaries, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Congress has the final word on the proposal.

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Interior Secretary Alters His Overhaul Plans After Governors Push Back

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revamped a plan for a sweeping overhaul of his department Friday with a new organizational map that more closely follows state lines instead of the natural boundaries he initially proposed.

The changes follow complaints from a bipartisan group of Western state governors that Zinke did not consult them before unveiling his original plan last month. The agency oversees vast public lands, primarily in the U.S. West, ranging from protected national parks and wildlife refuges to areas where coal mining and energy exploration dominate the landscape.

Zinke said in an interview with The Associated Press that his goal remains unchanged: decentralizing the Interior Department’s bureaucracy and creating 13 regional headquarters.

Regional map redrawn

The redrawn map, obtained by AP, shows that states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming would fall within a single region instead of being split among multiple regions. Other states remain divided, including California, Nevada, Montana and Oregon.

Aspects of the original map remain, with some regions labeled according to river systems, such as the Upper Colorado Basin and the Missouri Basin. But the new lines tend to cut across geographic features and follow state lines, not boundaries of rivers and ecosystems.

The new proposal resulted from discussions with governors, members of Congress and senior leaders at the agency, Interior officials said.

Many department changes

Zinke, a former Republican congressman from Montana, has imposed major changes at the 70,000-employee Interior Department. He has rolled back regulations considered burdensome to the oil and gas industry and reassigned dozens of senior officials who were holdovers from President Barack Obama’s administration.

The vision of retooling the department’s bureaucracy plays into longstanding calls from politicians in the American West to shift more decisions about nearly 700,000 square miles (more than 1.8 million square kilometers) of public lands under Interior oversight to officials in the region.

Some Democrats have speculated that Zinke’s true motivation for the overhaul is to gut the department, noting that more than 90 percent of its employees work outside Washington, D.C.

Zinke contends that he’s trying to streamline Interior’s management of public lands by requiring all of the agencies within the department to use common regional boundaries, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Congress has the final word on the proposal.

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More US Companies End Marketing Programs With National Rifle Association

Three more companies say they have ended marketing programs with the National Rifle Association (NRA), as gun control advocates stepped up pressure on firms to cut ties to the gun industry following last week’s school shooting in Florida.

Activists have posted petitions online, identifying businesses that offer discounts to NRA members, in a push to pressure the companies to cut ties to the gun rights organization.

Corporations that ended their discount programs with NRA members on Friday included insurance company MetLife, car rental company Hertz, and Symantec Corp., the software company that makes Norton Antivirus technology.

The move comes after several other companies cut their ties to the NRA earlier this week, including car rental company Enterprise, First National Bank of Omaha, Wyndham Hotels and Best Western hotels.

The NRA is one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups for gun rights and claims 5 million members.

Florida shooting renews debate

Last week’s shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead has renewed the national debate about gun control.

Gun control activists have been mounting a campaign on Twitter, including using the hashtag #BoycottNRA as well as using social media to pressure streaming platforms, including Amazon, to drop the online video channel NRATV, which features gun-friendly programming produced by the NRA.

On Thursday, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that those advocating for stricter gun control are exploiting the Florida shooting.

Receiving a rousing reception, LaPierre said, “There is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself and the right to survive.”

Arming teachers

On Friday, President Donald Trump reiterated to CPAC for the third time this week the need to arm teachers with concealed weapons to prevent more shootings in U.S. schools.

“It’s time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers. We don’t want them in our schools,” Trump said.

Trump has also proposed raising the age to buy assault-style rifles from 18 to 21, which is opposed by the NRA.

In his speech to CPAC, Trump indicated he does not intend to battle the powerful organization.

“They’re friends of mine,” Trump said of the NRA, which gave more than $11 million to his presidential campaign in 2016 and spent nearly $20 million attacking his Democratic Party general election challenger, Hillary Clinton.

The mass shooting in Florida on Feb. 14 has sparked a wave of rallies in Florida, Washington and in other areas of the United States in an attempt to force local and national leaders to take action to prevent such attacks.

 

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Trump Pushes to Arm Some Teachers in Wake of Florida School Shooting

U.S. President Donald Trump repeated his call to arm some teachers in the wake of the high school shooting in Florida. Trump spoke before a conservative group near Washington. He is the latest in a series of U.S. presidents forced to deal with the impact of a mass school shooting and with the question of what can be done to prevent them. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports that presidents have often been frustrated when trying to bridge the great divide over guns in the United States.

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At Trump’s Home Military Base, Airmen Share Stories of Diversity

President Donald Trump’s first year in office has at times been racially charged, from his push to temporarily ban citizens from certain countries to his comments after a race riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, when some said he didn’t swiftly condemn white supremacists. But no matter the controversy, he remains the U.S military’s commander-in-chief. At the president’s home base, Joint Base Andrews, just outside of Washington, airmen from all backgrounds are celebrating their diversity and sharing their stories of race relations with our Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb.

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