The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but backed off President Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.
Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the president said the federal government will help states implement a number of moves, including training for specially qualified school personnel volunteers to carry firearms. Military veterans and retired police officers will be encouraged to seek new careers as teachers.
The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups.
The White House says Trump also backs new laws to reform and strengthen background checks for potential gun buyers and allow states to seek court orders to take away weapons from those who have shown to be a threat to themselves and others.
Trump is also proposing expanding mental health programs.
Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, including raising the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old. But, such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association.
After 17 people were shot and killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Trump elevated the issue of school safety in his administration. He called for raising the minimum age for purchasing an AR-15 or similar-style rifles from 18 to 21 years old.
“Now, this is not a popular thing to say, in terms of the NRA. But I’m saying it anyway,” Trump said in a Feb. 28 meeting with lawmakers. “You can buy a handgun — you can’t buy one; you have to wait until you’re 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18. I think it’s something you have to think about.”
But the plan released Sunday did not address the minimum age for gun purchases. When asked by reporters about the age issue, a senior administration official said it was “a state-based discussion right now” and would be explored by a commission chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
DeVos characterized the administration’s efforts as “a pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety.”
“We are committed to working quickly because there’s no time to waste,” DeVos said on a Sunday evening conference call with reporters. “No student, no family, no teacher and no school should have to live the horror of Parkland or Sandy Hook or Columbine again.”
Nikolas Cruz, charged with the shooting at Marjory Stonelam Douglas High School last month, is just 19 and allegedly used a AR-15 assault-style weapon.
He was also a well-known troublemaker at Douglas high school and made a number of violent threats.