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.