Widow Disgusted by Indiana Immigration Ad Featuring Husband

The widow of an Uber driver killed in a suspected drunken driving crash said her family has been “devastated” by a political ad featuring her deceased husband, an Indianapolis Colts player who was also killed and the Guatemalan immigrant charged with their deaths.

Deb Monroe, the widow of driver Jeffrey Monroe, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun should take his ad off the air.  

“Why would you do this? He has not even been in the ground two weeks,” said Monroe. “You could have had the decency to wait and let us deal with our loss.”  

The ad by Braun, who has yet to address to Monroe’s concerns, comes in the midst of a heated GOP Senate primary. And it’s just the latest example of a political figure, among them President Donald Trump, seizing on the Feb. 4 deaths of Monroe and Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. 

The two were struck while standing outside Monroe’s car along Interstate 70 after Jackson, 26, became ill while Monroe, 54, was transporting him for the ride-hailing company, police said.

​Trump tweeted about the tragedy, calling it “disgraceful” that the man charged with the crime, Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, was a twice-deported immigrant in the country illegally. Braun’s GOP primary rivals both released statements in the wake of the fatal crash. 

The ad, which is narrated by Braun, displays Orrego-Savala’s mug shot as well as pictures of Monroe and Jackson.

“Politicians in Washington have ignored this issue for far too long,” Braun intones. “We must build the wall, ban sanctuary cities and put an end to chain migration. There are lives at stake.”

Deb Monroe said calls for a crackdown on immigrants are beside the point. 

“Immigration didn’t kill my husband,” said Monroe, 62, of Avon, Indiana. “The idiot that chose to drink and get behind the wheel of a 5,000 pound vehicle did.”

She added: “If he had been sober and gone by them on the road, you wouldn’t even know he was in the country.”

Furthermore, she said her husband of 26 years was against building a wall along the southern U.S. border. 

“He felt the wall was a waste of money, that it could be used better someplace else,” she said. 

Immigration has been a hot button issue in Indiana’s Republican Senate primary, which features two sitting congressman squaring off against Braun. Rep. Todd Rokita has embraced Trump’s anti-immigration stances and Rep. Luke Messer recently sharpened his own tone. 

But the ad by Braun, a businessman and former state lawmaker, takes it to a new level. 

Monroe said she phoned Braun’s campaign to request that they take the ad off the air, but they have not returned her call. 

Campaign spokesman Josh Kelley declined to address questions about whether Braun would heed her request, or if they plan on returning her call. 

“Mike Braun believes that Washington needs to stop illegal immigration, build the wall, and keep criminal illegals like the one that killed Jeffrey Monroe and Edwin Jackson out of Indiana,” Kelley wrote in an emailed statement. He added: “Mike and his family are praying for the families of the victims.”

Deb Monroe said politicians have been all too happy to “exploit” her husband’s death.  

“Everyone is upset over this,” Monroe said. “I can’t let them do this to his name. I just can’t.” 

Widow Disgusted by Indiana Immigration Ad Featuring Husband

The widow of an Uber driver killed in a suspected drunken driving crash said her family has been “devastated” by a political ad featuring her deceased husband, an Indianapolis Colts player who was also killed and the Guatemalan immigrant charged with their deaths.

Deb Monroe, the widow of driver Jeffrey Monroe, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun should take his ad off the air.  

“Why would you do this? He has not even been in the ground two weeks,” said Monroe. “You could have had the decency to wait and let us deal with our loss.”  

The ad by Braun, who has yet to address to Monroe’s concerns, comes in the midst of a heated GOP Senate primary. And it’s just the latest example of a political figure, among them President Donald Trump, seizing on the Feb. 4 deaths of Monroe and Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. 

The two were struck while standing outside Monroe’s car along Interstate 70 after Jackson, 26, became ill while Monroe, 54, was transporting him for the ride-hailing company, police said.

​Trump tweeted about the tragedy, calling it “disgraceful” that the man charged with the crime, Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, was a twice-deported immigrant in the country illegally. Braun’s GOP primary rivals both released statements in the wake of the fatal crash. 

The ad, which is narrated by Braun, displays Orrego-Savala’s mug shot as well as pictures of Monroe and Jackson.

“Politicians in Washington have ignored this issue for far too long,” Braun intones. “We must build the wall, ban sanctuary cities and put an end to chain migration. There are lives at stake.”

Deb Monroe said calls for a crackdown on immigrants are beside the point. 

“Immigration didn’t kill my husband,” said Monroe, 62, of Avon, Indiana. “The idiot that chose to drink and get behind the wheel of a 5,000 pound vehicle did.”

She added: “If he had been sober and gone by them on the road, you wouldn’t even know he was in the country.”

Furthermore, she said her husband of 26 years was against building a wall along the southern U.S. border. 

“He felt the wall was a waste of money, that it could be used better someplace else,” she said. 

Immigration has been a hot button issue in Indiana’s Republican Senate primary, which features two sitting congressman squaring off against Braun. Rep. Todd Rokita has embraced Trump’s anti-immigration stances and Rep. Luke Messer recently sharpened his own tone. 

But the ad by Braun, a businessman and former state lawmaker, takes it to a new level. 

Monroe said she phoned Braun’s campaign to request that they take the ad off the air, but they have not returned her call. 

Campaign spokesman Josh Kelley declined to address questions about whether Braun would heed her request, or if they plan on returning her call. 

“Mike Braun believes that Washington needs to stop illegal immigration, build the wall, and keep criminal illegals like the one that killed Jeffrey Monroe and Edwin Jackson out of Indiana,” Kelley wrote in an emailed statement. He added: “Mike and his family are praying for the families of the victims.”

Deb Monroe said politicians have been all too happy to “exploit” her husband’s death.  

“Everyone is upset over this,” Monroe said. “I can’t let them do this to his name. I just can’t.” 

Trump Seeks to Clarify Call for Arming Teachers to Deter School Shootings

President Donald Trump sought to clarify his idea of arming educators in the classroom to deter school shootings, saying he wants to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience.”

A day after an emotional exchange at the White House with victimized students and parents of school shootings, Trump, in a pair of tweets, said “only the best 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”

 
At the White House listening session Wednesday, Trump said “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly.” He added that “This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.”

Also spreading former military service members throughout schools “could very well solve your problem,” Trump said in the White House State Dining room. “We’re going to be looking at it very closely.”

At one point, Trump asked: “Does everybody like that idea?”

A few people raised their hands. The president then asked who opposed it and more hands went up from the approximately 40 people in the room, mainly students, family members and educators directly affected by school shootings.

Later at a CNN town hall event in Florida that included survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a 19-year-old former student has been charged in the killing of 17 people, Senator Marco Rubio told the audience he does not support arming teachers.

Under questioning by students, parents and teachers, Rubio also said tighter gun laws alone will not prevent future shootings, while he does support a minimum age for buying rifles and a ban on an accessory called a bump stock that can allow the weapons to shoot more bullets more quickly.

Scott Israel, the sheriff in the county that includes Parkland, said trained deputies would carry rifles on school grounds, but rejected the idea of giving guns to teachers.

Trump is set to hold another meeting on school safety Thursday at the White House, this time with state and local officials.

During Wednesday’s event, the president also called for an end to gun-free zones near schools, declared his administration “is going to be very strong on background checks” and that it will also examine raising the minimum age for purchase of guns (28 states have no such restrictions).

“If he’s not old enough to go buy a beer. He should not be able to buy a gun. It’s just common sense,” said Stoneman Douglas student Samuel Zeif.

“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was shot nine times and died. “King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”

Pollack questioned, “How many children have to get shot?”

Some students from the school declined invitations to attend Wednesday’s White House event and instead rallied at Florida’s state Capitol in Tallahassee to call for gun control reforms.

The president also referred to shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz as a “sick guy…who should have been nabbed.” Cruz is being held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder at the Broward County jail.

Trump put more emphasis on the mental health issue than gun control in his remarks, saying “there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them” in many communities.

Since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at elementary and secondary schools in the United States, in which two or more people were killed (not counting gunmen who committed suicide).

The president on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to look at outlawing bump stocks, which were used in the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, last October that killed 58 people and wounded 851 others.

The Trump administration and lawmakers are facing a backlash — including from some of the student survivors of the latest school mass shooting — that they are too focused on the mental health of gunmen rather than the weapons they carry.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week said 86 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Florida shooting, while 67 percent who identified as Republicans said stricter laws could not have prevented the massacre.

 

Trump Seeks to Clarify Call for Arming Teachers to Deter School Shootings

President Donald Trump sought to clarify his idea of arming educators in the classroom to deter school shootings, saying he wants to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience.”

A day after an emotional exchange at the White House with victimized students and parents of school shootings, Trump, in a pair of tweets, said “only the best 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”

 
At the White House listening session Wednesday, Trump said “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly.” He added that “This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.”

Also spreading former military service members throughout schools “could very well solve your problem,” Trump said in the White House State Dining room. “We’re going to be looking at it very closely.”

At one point, Trump asked: “Does everybody like that idea?”

A few people raised their hands. The president then asked who opposed it and more hands went up from the approximately 40 people in the room, mainly students, family members and educators directly affected by school shootings.

Later at a CNN town hall event in Florida that included survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a 19-year-old former student has been charged in the killing of 17 people, Senator Marco Rubio told the audience he does not support arming teachers.

Under questioning by students, parents and teachers, Rubio also said tighter gun laws alone will not prevent future shootings, while he does support a minimum age for buying rifles and a ban on an accessory called a bump stock that can allow the weapons to shoot more bullets more quickly.

Scott Israel, the sheriff in the county that includes Parkland, said trained deputies would carry rifles on school grounds, but rejected the idea of giving guns to teachers.

Trump is set to hold another meeting on school safety Thursday at the White House, this time with state and local officials.

During Wednesday’s event, the president also called for an end to gun-free zones near schools, declared his administration “is going to be very strong on background checks” and that it will also examine raising the minimum age for purchase of guns (28 states have no such restrictions).

“If he’s not old enough to go buy a beer. He should not be able to buy a gun. It’s just common sense,” said Stoneman Douglas student Samuel Zeif.

“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was shot nine times and died. “King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”

Pollack questioned, “How many children have to get shot?”

Some students from the school declined invitations to attend Wednesday’s White House event and instead rallied at Florida’s state Capitol in Tallahassee to call for gun control reforms.

The president also referred to shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz as a “sick guy…who should have been nabbed.” Cruz is being held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder at the Broward County jail.

Trump put more emphasis on the mental health issue than gun control in his remarks, saying “there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them” in many communities.

Since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at elementary and secondary schools in the United States, in which two or more people were killed (not counting gunmen who committed suicide).

The president on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to look at outlawing bump stocks, which were used in the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, last October that killed 58 people and wounded 851 others.

The Trump administration and lawmakers are facing a backlash — including from some of the student survivors of the latest school mass shooting — that they are too focused on the mental health of gunmen rather than the weapons they carry.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week said 86 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Florida shooting, while 67 percent who identified as Republicans said stricter laws could not have prevented the massacre.

 

Beyond ‘Obamacare’: New Liberal Plan on Health Care Overhaul

A major liberal policy group is raising the ante on the health care debate with a new plan that builds on Medicare to guarantee coverage for all. 

Called “Medicare Extra for All,” the proposal to be released Thursday by the Center for American Progress gives politically energized Democrats more options to achieve a long-sought goal.

Still, the plan would preserve a role for employer coverage and for the health insurance industry. Employers and individuals would have a choice of joining Medicare Extra, but it would not be required.

That differs from the more traditional “single-payer” approach advocated by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, in which the government would hold the reins of the health care system. 

Even though the plan has no chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress, center president Neera Tanden said, “We think it’s time to go bolder. There is consensus on the progressive side that universal coverage should be the goal and health care is a right.”

Picking up on the leftward shift among Democrats, Republicans are already working up rebuttals. President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this month that “Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!”

The Center for American Progress is a think tank that was closely aligned with President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A 2005 proposal from the center foreshadowed Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Medicare Extra would use Medicare’s thrifty payment system as framework to pool working-age people and their families, low-income people now covered by Medicaid, and seniors. A major missing piece: There’s no cost estimate for the plan, although its authors say that’s in the works.

The proposal comes at a time when polls show intense interest among Democrats and some independents in a government-run system that would guarantee coverage and benefits while reducing the complexity and out-of-pocket costs associated with private insurance. The future of health care is expected to be a defining issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, and political messages will be tested and honed in this fall’s midterm elections.

A nonpartisan expert who independently reviewed the Medicare Extra plan said it could provide Democrats with a middle way to achieve their longstanding goal of coverage for all.

“It’s an attempt to capture the enthusiasm for a single-payer system among the Democratic base, but trying to create a more politically and fiscally realistic roadmap,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

To be sure, taxes would rise and the federal government would take on a larger role.

“It is in some ways ‘repeal and replace,’ but from the left rather than the right,” Levitt added.

Medicare Extra envisions a complex transition that would take the better part of a decade. Among its major elements:

-All U.S. citizens and lawful residents would be automatically eligible for coverage.

-Preventive care, treatment for chronic disease, and generic prescription drugs would be free. Dental, vision and hearing services would be included.

-Low-income people would pay no premiums or copays. Premiums and cost-sharing would be determined according to income for everyone else.

-Employers would have the option of maintaining their own plans or joining Medicare Extra. Workers could pick the government plan over their employer’s. The proposal would preserve the tax-free status of employer-provided health care, subject to a limit.

-Seniors with private Medicare Advantage insurance plans through Medicare would be able to keep similar coverage, although the program would be redesigned and called “Medicare Choice.” Seniors would gain coverage for vision, dental and hearing services not now provided by Medicare. Long-term care services would be covered.

-Government would negotiate prices for prescription drugs, medical devices and medical equipment.

Although costs and financing are not spelled out in the proposal, its authors acknowledge significant tax increases would be required. Options include rolling back some of the recently enacted GOP tax cuts for corporations and upper-income people, raising Medicare taxes on upper-income earners, and higher taxes on tobacco and sugary soft drinks.

Remarks From White House Listening Session on School Shootings

THE WHITE HOUSE

 

Office of the Press Secretary


                       For Immediate Release                          February 21, 2018

 

 

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP

AND VICE PRESIDENT PENCE

AT LISTENING SESSION WITH

STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND PARENTS

 

State Dining Room

 

 

 

4:21 P.M. EST

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Have a seat. 

 

It’s a great honor to have you here, and we’re going to be listening to some of your suggestions.  I’ve heard some of them, and we’re going to do something about this horrible situation that’s going on.  And we’re going to all figure it out together.

 

So I want to listen, and then after I listen, we’re going to get things done.

 

I thought we’d start off — Pastor, if you could possibly say the prayer, it would be appreciated.  Thank you.

 

PASTOR URRABAZO:  (A prayer is given.)

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Pastor.  Appreciate it.

 

     Vice President, you wanted to say and I’d like you to say a few words.  And I’d like to then introduce you to Betsy DeVos, who most of you know and some of you have met a little while ago.

 

     Mike, what do you have to say?

 

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  First off, thank you, Mr. President.  I want to thank the families from Parkland for being here, and assure you of the deepest condolences and sympathies of the First Family and our family, and of the American people. 

 

     As the President said last week, the American people are united with one heart, broken by what took place.  But the President called this meeting for us as much to talk about what’s happened in our country over the last 20 years, and to find out from all of you gathered here, by listening, by learning, how we might ensure that this is the last time this ever happens. 

 

     I, along with the President, are deeply moved by the stories of heroism and courage.  And I’m candidly moved by the courage that it takes for many of you to be here today.  And what I just want to encourage you to do is tell us your stories.  America is looking on.  And your President, our entire administration, leaders around the country at every level are looking on.  And we want to hear your hearts today.  I encourage you to be candid and be vulnerable, and share with us not only this personal experience, but what it is that you would have us to do. 

 

     And just know that as the President has already taken action, he’ll be meeting in this very room in the coming days with governors from all 50 states to make school safety the top priority of this administration and across this country.

 

     The President and I wanted to hear from you all first.  And so I want to say thank you for coming, thank you for the courage and being willing to be here and share your hearts.  And just, from our family to your family, just God bless you and comfort you.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mike, very much.  Betsy.

 

     SECRETARY DEVOS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Students, teachers, parents: Thanks for being here.  For many of you, you’ve lived through something unthinkable.  For many of you it’s raw and fresh. 

 

     I admire your strength and bravery to come share your experience with the President, the Vice President, and the world.  No student, no parent, no teacher should ever have to endure what you all have. 

 

And my heart is broken.  What happened last week shocked us, it angers us, and it pains us. 

 

We are here to have an earnest conversation about why this tragedy, and too many others before it, happened, and how we can work to find solutions.  We’re here to listen, to gain your important perspective on ways to reduce violence and to protect students. 

 

Our hope is that by talking and by listening, we can make something that was unthinkably bad, something good.  And your loss and your trauma must never be in vain.  So thank you again for being here, and let’s get started.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Betsy.  And I just want to say before we really begin — because I want to hear your input — we’re going to be very strong on background checks.  We’re going to be doing very strong background checks.  Very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody.  And we are going to do plenty of other things. 

 

Again, next week, the governors are coming in from most of the states, and we’re going to have a very serious talk about what’s going on with school safety.  Very important.  And we’re going to cover every aspect of it.  There are many ideas that I have.  There are many ideas that other people have.  And we’re going to pick out the strongest ideas, the most important ideas, the ideas that are going to work.  And we’re going to get them done.  It’s not going to be talk like it has been in the past.  It’s been going on too long; too many instances.  And we’re going to get it done. 

 

     So, again, I want to thank you all for being here.  And I’d like to hear your story.  And I’d also like to, if you have any suggestions for the future based on this horrible experience that you’ve gone through — I’d love to have those ideas.

 

How about we start with you. 

 

     MS. CORDOVER:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. President, for having me here.  My name is Julia Cordover, and I’m from Stoneman Douglas High School, and I was there during the shooting.  And I am a survivor. 

 

     And I want you guys all to emphasize the point that I survived.  I was lucky enough to come home from school, unlike some of my other classmates and teachers.  And it’s very scary.  And knowing that a lot of people did not have this opportunity to be here still is mind-blowing.  And I’m just — I feel like there is a lot to do, and I really appreciate you hosting me and what you are saying.  I’m confident that you’ll do the right thing, and I appreciate you looking at the bump stocks yesterday.  That means it is definitely a step in the right direction, and I think we can all agree on that. 

 

     There’s definitely a lot more to go, but I am just grateful that I’m here and that we can try to work out something.  Maybe compromise on some solution so this never has to — no child, no person in this world will ever have to go something — through so horrific and tragic.  And my thoughts and prayers are out to everyone there.  So, thank you. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  I really appreciate it. 

 

     MR. BLANK:  Hello, my name is Jonathan Blank.  I go to Stoneman Douglas, and I was actually in the second classroom that was shot at.  In my mind, as a kid, nothing ever that horrible should ever have to happen to you.  You can’t even think about it.  It doesn’t even seem real still.  Everything seems fake.  I can’t even — I don’t even know what’s going on.  It’s just crazy, everything happening.  It’s just so tragic. 

 

Thank you for everything.  You’ve done a great job, and I like the direction that you’re going in.  Thank you. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  My name is Melissa Blank.  Jonathan is my son.  And I am a teacher’s aide at Westglades Middle School that was also on lockdown.  So I couldn’t get in touch with my son to find out if my son was alive or not.  I feel for all of these families.  My heart is just broken for my whole community.  We’re coming together.  I feel for all the families who have lost, and I feel for the ones that are here because we now have almost a guilt like I have.  Why not my child?  Which I feel bad saying I’m happy that he’s here with me.  But I feel so bad for all of you who have lost so many.  And I’m just begging for a change.  We need a change.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you. 

 

     MRS. ABT:  Do you mind — may I pass the microphone back to my daughter, because I think she has some nice solutions and — if that’s okay with you. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Sure. 

 

     MRS. ABT:  Thank you. 

 

     MS. ABT:  Hi, my name is Carson Abt.  I am a junior, and I was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas at the time of the shooting.  And I know there are a lot of different solutions that we can go through to help eradicate this issue, but one that stuck out to me was about all the drills and protocols that my teachers had to go through.  They knew what to do once the code red for an active shooter was announced.  But, through research, I found that only 32 states require drills.  But of those 32 states, more than half of the counties do not go through the drills because they want to spend their resources towards something else. 

 

     And I know that a bill was also passed that declared that each school has to go through one drill each month.  But I know that my school, we go through fire drills every month, and we have not had our lockdown drill yet this year. 

 

And I think a change that will increase all of the trainings and protocols, so if God forbid another shooting does happen, at least all the teachers will be prepared and can hopefully keep their students calm. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

 

     MS. KLEIN:  Hi, my name is Ariana Klein.  I would just like to say thank you for leading this country.  You’re a great leader, and I appreciate the direction that the country is going in. 

 

     I’m a junior; I attend Stoneman Douglas.  And I just want to say that everybody right now is so stuck on what they believe, that they’re not even listening to what other people believe.  We need to listen to the other points of views.  We all need to realize that we all have different points of views and that we need — this solution is not going to be a singular thing.  It’s going to be multi-faceted and it’s going to be created by a collection of different people working together.

 

And we all have to realize that we all have our opinions, and together we’re going to be able to work to a solution.  And this is not just Parkland anymore, this is America.  This is every student in every city, everywhere.  It’s everybody.  It’s not small.  It’s everything. 

 

     And I’d just like to say thank you for having us.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I appreciate it. 

 

     MR. ABT:  My name is Fred Abt.  I’m Carson’s dad.  I’m going to pass the microphone along to some of the other students.  If we have a chance later on, perhaps I’ll speak or other parents could speak.  But I’d like students to get their chance. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks.  Very nice. 

 

     MR. GRUBER, JR.:  My name is Justin Gruber, and I was at the school at the time of the massacre.  I’m only 15 years old.  I’m a sophomore.  Nineteen years ago, the first school shooting, Columbine — at Columbine High School happened.  And I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace.

 

    There needs to be a significant change in this country because this has to never happen again.  And people should be able to feel that, when they go to school, they can be safe.  And — because there needs to be a change — I’m sorry.  People need to feel safe.  And parents shouldn’t have to go through the idea of losing their child.  As I know, from my dad, he was panicking and he couldn’t imagine it.  So that shouldn’t even be a possibility that should go through a parent’s mind.  There needs to be some change.  Thank you. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much. 

 

     MR. GRUBER, SR.:  I’m Cary Gruber, Justin’s dad.  And I’ll be brief.  You know, Justin was texting me, hiding in a closet, saying, “If something happens, I love you.  If something happens, I love you.”  And you can’t imagine what that’s like as a parent.  And then his phone died, and I didn’t know what happened for another hour or so. 

 

So, 17 lives are gone.  I was lucky enough to get my son home, but 17 families — this is — it’s not left and right, it’s not political.  It’s a human issue.  People are dying.  And we have to stop this.  We have to stop.  If he’s not old enough to buy a drink — to go and buy a beer, he should not be able to buy a gun at 18 years old.  I mean, that’s just a common sense.  We have to do common sense.  Please, Mr. Trump, these are things we have to do. 

 

     In Israel, you have to be 27 years old to have a gun.  You’re only allowed one.  They tax the guns.  You have to go through significant training.  

 

     We got to do something about this.  We cannot have our children die.  This is just heartbreaking.  Please.  Thank you.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you. 

 

     MS. MORRIS:  Hi, my name is Shannon Morris.  I’m a local administrator for a school in D.C., and I really want to continue the conversation for our students.

 

     MS. MARCUS:  Hi, my name is Vielka Marcus, and I’m also a local educator here in Washington, D.C. for Friendship Public Charter Schools.  So I will allow our students that are here to voice their opinions, as well as give some of their ideas to do that at this time. 

 

And my condolences and my heart truly go out to not just the families that have lost children in this horrific, horrific incident that has occurred, but also to our families here in the District of Columbia that experience gun violence outside of our schools that directly impact our schools because they are our students.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

 

MS. BARNETT:  Hello.  My name is Alaya Barnett, and I go to the Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy in the heart of Southeast D.C.  

 

My condolences to every family here that experienced the shooting and all the students that experienced that.  And I’m here on behalf of my school and all of the Friendship Schools in D.C. to be able to prevent those kind of things happening at our school.  Because in Southeast D.C., we do encounter a lot of violence and things — most of the time at night, but a lot of the times it’s in the daytime too.

 

So our schools, we do take preventative measures and everything to stop that.  Like, we check bags at the door and everything.  And it does make us — at first, we’re like, “No, we don’t want to do this.”  But then we realize it’s for our safety.

 

But we wanted to make sure that it continues and that nothing can ever slip up for these things to happen like in school.  Counseling for our students who are struggling with fear and bullying.  Bullying triggers emotions that would make a student want to bring a weapon to school to protect themselves or to get revenge for a person that did something to them.

 

So we just want to have a lot of preventative measures to be in the schools — and also outside of school — to make sure that nothing can happen to us while we’re in school.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

 

MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY:  Hello, Mr. President.  Thank you for having us.  I’m Christine Hunschofsky.  I’m the mayor of the city of Parkland. 

 

We have a great city.  It’s been one of the safest cities in America.  And the fact that this happened in our city means it can happen anywhere. 

 

We are blessed that we are a very close-knit, family-oriented city, and our community is coming together.  We lost 17 lives, but the ripple effects throughout the community are devastating.  I have spent the last week going to funerals — friends of mine that lost their children.

 

We have to, at some point, care enough and be strong enough to come up with solutions.  And I hope we will.  And if I might, I had two parents who lost children this past week text me some of their thoughts, if I might share them with you.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

 

MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY:  Thank you.  I spoke to Jennifer and Tony Montalto.  They just buried their daughter Gina yesterday. 

 

And their comments were — so Tony is a airline pilot.  And he said he supports the Second Amendment, but he does not believe there is a need for assault rifles.  He also said that the FBI, there were signs missed.  And it reminded him of 9/11.  So we do have to work on making sure that our protocols are in place so that people don’t slip through the cracks, literally, in this case.

 

We also talked about the red flag laws.  I think there’s a little progress being made in Florida now on the red flag laws, which is, when somebody shows signs of hurting themselves or someone else, you can take their gun away from them.

 

Fred Guttenberg, a service for his daughter Jaime was last week, on Friday.  And he would like the administration to publicly acknowledge the role of guns.  Now, these two parents talked about guns, and there are absolutely lots of areas where there’s room for improvement — lots of areas — from mental health, from teacher training.  But also — part of that is also the gun issue.  So it’s not that it’s just those and not the gun; it’s all of them. 

 

     And in the debate world, in the high school debate world, the kids talk about when they bring up legislation, you want to have impacts.  You’re not bringing up legislation that doesn’t have a positive impact.  And what is the positive impact of having legislation that stops assault rifles — bans assault rifles?  It could save a life.  And that needs to be a priority in any case.  And when we talk about rights — so we have the right for free speech, but if free speech in any way endangers someone, it gets restricted. 

 

     And I think — I appreciate that we’re coming here to listen, and I appreciate that we’re coming here to look at all different perspectives, because we need action and we need to be solution-oriented.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  Thank you.

 

     MR. POLLACK:  We’re here because my daughter has no voice.  She was murdered last week, and she was taken from us.  Shot nine times on the third floor. 

 

     We, as a country, failed our children.  This shouldn’t happen.  We go to the airport — I can’t get on a plane with a bottle of water.  But we leave it — some animal can walk into a school and shoot our children.  It’s just not right, and we need to come together as a country and work on what’s important, and that’s protecting our children in the schools.  That’s the only thing that matters right now.  Everyone has to come together and not think about different laws.  We need to come together, as a country — not different parties — and figure out how we protect the schools.  It’s simple.  It’s not difficult.

 

     We protect airports.  We protect concerts, stadiums, embassies, the Department of Education that I walked in today that has a security guard in the elevator.  How do you think that makes me feel?  In the elevator, they got a security guard. 

 

     I’m very angry that this happened, because it keeps happening.  9/11 happened once, and they fixed everything.  How many schools, how many children have to get shot?  It stops here with this administration and me.  I’m not going to sleep until it’s fixed. 

 

     And, Mr. President, we’re going to fix it, because I’m going to fix it.  I’m not going to rest.  And look it, my boys need to live with this.  I want to see everyone — you guys look at this.  Me, I’m a man, but to see your children go through this, bury their sister.

 

     So that’s why I’m keep saying this, because I want it to sink in, not forget about this.  We can’t forget about it.  All these school shootings, it doesn’t make sense.  Fix it.  It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it.  And I’m pissed, because my daughter I’m not going to see again.  She’s not here.  She’s not here.  She’s in North Lauderdale, at — whatever it is — King David Cemetery.  That’s where I go to see my kid now.  And it stops if we all work together and come up with the right idea.  And it’s school safety.  It’s not about gun laws right now; that’s another fight, another battle.  Let’s fix the schools, and then you guys can battle it out, whatever you want.

 

     But we need our children safe.  Monday, tomorrow, whatever day it is, your kids are going to go to school.  You think everyone’s kids are safe?  I didn’t think it was going to happen to me.  If I knew that, I would have been at the school every day if I knew it was that dangerous.

 

     It’s enough.  Let’s get together and work with the President and fix the schools.  That’s it.  No other discussions.  Security, whatever we have to do — get the right people, the consultants.  These are our commodities.  I’m never going to see my kid again.  I want you all to know that.  Never, ever will I see my kid.  That’s how — I want it to sink in.  It’s eternity.  My beautiful daughter, I’m never going to see again.

 

     And it’s simple.  It’s not — we could fix — this is my son Huck, who has to deal with this too.  You have something to say, son?

 

     MR. HUCK POLLACK:  I just want to add that it’s imperative to the safety of everyone to support the free market and free flow of ideas, and listen to people on — listen to radical opinions on both sides.  And that’s how we’ll find solutions.  You let people battle it out in a free flow of ideas.  Censorship has got to stop.  And that’s how we find the solutions, by listening to everyone, having an open mind. 

 

     MR. POLLACK:  This is my son Hunter.

 

     MR. HUNTER POLLACK:  How are you?  I’m Hunter Pollack, class of ’15, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.  I walked the same hallways where Meadow got shot and all 16 other victims.

 

     First off, I want to thank Mr. President for having us.  We had a very effective meeting before we walked in this room. 

 

     Mr. Vice President, as well, and Madam Secretary, I put all of my trust into them and my father that, together, that we’ll be able to find a solution.

 

     And that’s all I have to say.  Thank you for having us.

 

     MR. ZEIF:  Hi, my name is Sam Zeif.  I’m a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland.  And I just want to take a second first to thank you for having me, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary. 

 

     I was on the second floor in that building, texting my mom, texting my dad, texting three of my brothers that I was never going to see them again.  And then it occurred to me that my 14-year-old brother was directly above me in that classroom where Scott Beigel was murdered. 

 

     Scott Beigel got my brother in the class.  He was the last kid to get back into that class.  And I’m sure a lot of you have read my texts on the Internet with my brother.  I didn’t plan for them to go viral.  I just wanted to share with the world, because no brothers, or sisters, or family members, or anyone should ever have to share those texts with anyone.

 

     And that’s why I’m here.  I lost a best friend, who’s practically a brother.  And I’m here to use my voice because I know he can’t.  And I know he’s with me, cheering me on, to be strong.  But it’s hard.  And to feel like this — it doesn’t even feel like a week.  Time has stood still.  To feel like this, ever, I can’t feel comfortable in my country knowing that people have, will have, are ever going to feel like this. 

 

     And I want to feel safe at school.  You know, senior year and junior year, they were big years for me, when I turned my academics around, started connecting with teachers, and I started actually enjoying school.  And now, I don’t know how I’m ever going to step foot on that place again, or go to a public park after school, or be walking anywhere.  Me and my friends, we get scared when a car drives by — anywhere. 

 

     And I think I agree with Hunter and Huck, and how we need to let ideas flow and get the problem solved.  I don’t understand.  I turned 18 the day after.  Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone.  And I don’t understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war — an AR. 

 

     I was reading today that a person, 20 years old, walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes with an expired ID.  How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon?  How did we not stop this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook?  I’m sitting with a mother that lost her son, and it’s still happening. 

 

     In Australia, there was a shooting at a school in 1999.  And you know, after that, they took a lot of ideas, they put legislation together, and they stopped it.  Can anyone here guess how many shootings there have been in the schools since then in Australia?  Zero. 

 

     We need to do something, and that’s why we’re here.  So let’s be strong for the fallen who don’t have a voice to speak anymore.  And let’s never let this happen again.  Please.  Please. 

 

     MS. HOCKLEY:  Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary, my story is far too well known.  I had two sons who were at Sandy Hook school.  My eldest, who was eight at the time, survived.  And my 6-year-old son Dylan did not.

 

     And I have been working tirelessly on this issue for over five years now.  The organization that I help lead, Sandy Hook Promise, is very focused on keeping kids safe at school —  because no parent should go through this.  Every parent who sends their kid to school should know, without any question in their mind, that they’re going to be coming home that day.

 

     This is not a difficult issue.  You’re absolutely right.  There are solutions, and this administration has the ability to put them in place.  And after Sandy Hook, they said we wouldn’t let this happen again, and yet it has continued to happen for five years.  How many more deaths can we take as a country?  How many more teenagers and six- and seven-year-olds can we allow to die? 

 

Don’t let that happen anymore on your watch.  There are things that you can do right now.  Mental health, you mentioned earlier; funding for that would be very much appreciated.  The STOP School Violence Act, enabling prevention programs and reporting systems in schools across America.  It’s already passed through the House.  It’s in the Senate right now.  Urge swift passage right now.  That can get a lot of help to schools.

 

I absolutely agree, since Sandy Hook, there has been an increase in school safety and security.  We’ve invested a lot on the bricks and mortar of our schools; we’ve invested a lot on the security of our schools.  I think we also need to focus on prevention.  How do we prevent these acts from happening?  How can we help identify and get help for people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others before they pick up any weapon? 

 

That’s what we need to focus on, by preventing these acts.  And you have the ability to do that.  There’s legislation available to you right now.  There are free training programs, such as our Know the Signs Programs, available across the states.  Right now, you could mandate these sorts of programs.  You could ensure that schools, students, and educators are trained how to recognize these signs and to know what to do when they see them, and then to ensure that those tips are followed through.

 

This is not difficult.  These deaths are preventable.  And I implore you, consider your own children.  You don’t want to be me.  No parent does.  And you have the ability to make a difference and save lives today.  Please don’t waste this.  Thank you.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.

 

MR. SCOTT:  Mr. President, Vice President, and Mrs. DeVos, thank you for inviting my wife and I to be here today.  I’m a little bit weak; I had surgery last week, so I’m kind of weak in voice and body.  But 19 years ago, I went through what some of the folks here are going through now, because my beautiful daughter Rachel was killed.  And my son Craig was in the library that day, and two of his friends were murdered beside him.  He lay there covered in their blood, looking down the barrel of two guns aimed at him.  And he knew he was going to die. 

 

     And a split second before Eric and Dylan pulled the trigger, the alarm system went off and it distracted them, and they never came back to the table where Craig was at, or I would have lost two children that day at Columbine.

 

     So my heart goes out to you, sir, and to every one of you that have experienced the trauma that you’ve gone through at Parkland.

 

     Our focus has been — my beautiful wife, the most beautiful lady in the room is right there, in the blue and white blouse, Sandy.  We started a program called Rachel’s Challenge, and it was started a year after Rachel died.  And we have worked with some wonderful partners over the last few years. 

 

We work closely with Chuck Norris and his wife Gena in a problem they call Kickstart for Kids.  We work with Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Bill, and have created a program for athletes called The Uncommon Athlete, and it’s based on something my daughter wrote in one of her diaries.  We have partnered with Dr. Robert Marzano who’s one of the top K-12 researchers in the country, and a program called WhyTry — all dear friends — and another program called Love and Logic, Dr. Jim Fay — one of the largest parenting programs.

 

     All of us combined our efforts together.  Our organization has reached over 28 million students in the last 19 years, and we have seen seven school shootings prevented.  We see an average of three suicides prevented every single week of the year — over 150 a year.  I have a little book with me that I’d like to leave with you.  It’s got letters from students.  We don’t edit them.  These are emails from students who were planning to commit suicide.  And we see three of those every single week — students that have changed their mind.

 

     And if you don’t mind, I just want to share one simple principle with you that we’ve learned over the years as we’ve worked with millions and millions of young people, and it comes from something you said last week in your speech.  And it was that we must create a culture of connectedness; we must create a culture in which our classmates become our friends.

 

     That’s something we’ve learned how to do over the years.  We have over 28 different programs, and we see children connect with one another.  Every single one of these school shootings have been from young men who are disconnected.  And we talk a lot about the mental health issues, but it actually goes deeper than that because there’s a lot of mentally ill children that are kind and compassionate. 

 

     And so we work with those children every single day of the year — of the school year, but there’s always the one with the propensity to violence. 

 

     And so one of the things we have learned — and we train young people and we train teachers — that the focus must not be just on unity or diversity.  Because if you focus too much on diversity, you create division.  If you focus too much on unity, you’ll create compromise.  But if you focus on relatedness and how we can relate with one another, then you can celebrate the diversity and you can see the unity take place.

 

     I’m all for diversity, I’m all for unity, but the focus really needs to be on how can we connect.  And that’s something that we and our organizations have learned.  One thing we have learned is how to connect students with each other, with themselves, with their teachers, and with their parents.  And I would love to share more as we have a chance to do so.

 

     Thank you again for having us today.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.  This is an incredible group of people, and we really do appreciate it.

 

     Some of the folks in the back, and some of my friends sitting right back here, I’d like to have you say a few words.  We can learn a lot from you.  We want to learn everything we can learn, and we’re going to go — starting about two minutes after this meeting, we’re going to work, because this is a long-term situation that we have to solve.  We’ll solve it together.  And you’ve gone through extraordinary pain, and we don’t want others to go through the kind of pain that you’ve gone through.  It wouldn’t be right.

 

     So would you like to say something, please?

 

     MR. KELLY:  Thank you, Mr. President.  My name is Curtis Kelly.  I represent Thurgood Marshall Academy here in the District of Columbia.  Thank you, Vice President and Madam Secretary, for having myself and Gregory Baldwin, who represents Thurgood Marshall.

 

     My tragedy started September the 20th of last year.  I have two twin sons that attend Thurgood Marshall, and they are elite athletes, junior Olympics.  One of my sons was the youth council member for the District of Columbia in Ward 5.  And one day he was — this is after school.  Now, we need to — I agree we need to protect our kids in schools, but we need to protect them on their safe passageways home as well, and their extracurricular activities, and their parks and recreations, and everything, that they try to go for their peace in.

    

     So my son, Zaire Kelly, went to college-bound — right after school — to announce that he was declaring for his college to run track and to further his education, and become mayor of the District of Columbia, or something like that.

 

     On his route home, he got a text from my son, Zion Kelly, who was going to make it, but when he found out there was press, he decided not to.  Because, locally, we were burnt by the press.  Zion is texting Zaire, “Watch out, there’s someone in our passageway coming home.”  And in a split second, Zaire was just walking home, maybe from this distance to where the curtains are — he was that close to home — when a thug came out to try to rob Zion, and he tried to rob Zaire.  He tried to rob Zion 20 minutes earlier.  He came back because he was upset, he didn’t get them students.  “Those fast track kids — I’m going to come back and get them.”  He went, caught my son, got in an altercation over a cell phone, and shot my son in the head.  And now he’s not here with us. 

 

That day, I could have lost two sons.  But the tragedy that my family have to live with after losing Zaire is — I have another son that attends Thurgood Marshall.  He’s — we’ve been taking him to all types of family counseling and therapy.  And the school has been affected.  The community has been affected.  And the local politicians say, “So what we want to do is stand up for our students in the community, give us some solutions as to what we can do.”  So myself, along with helping hands in D.C., came together and got with attorneys.  And everyone else said, okay, we’re going to do some research and find out what legislation can be found that can better serve to protect our students in their safety zones and their school zones. 

 

And it’s been a fight, because everybody show up for photo ops.  All the politicians show up to say, “We going to get it done.  We going to protect our kids.”  But just a couple weeks later, a school shooting, just like we all hearing about all these experiences, at Ballou Senior High School — a kid gets shot at school.  Dunbar — a kid gets shot in school.  In our schools, on their safe passageway home.  Their parks and recreations, extracurricular.  Our students have to be protected.  Our students have to be protected.

 

One local legislator asked me, how do you define students?  How would a criminal define students?  You would define them after you commit a crime against them.  The students are crying.  They’re calling for a national stand-out day, April the 20th, in celebration of Columbine — because the same incidents keep happening not just in our schools — in our communities, as well — to upstanding citizens, to those that’s doing the right thing.

 

And we as parents, yes, we’re trying to fight to pass legislation just like you, locally.  But nationally, this campaign has grown and it’s affecting all of us, all our kids, this gun violence — gun violence. 

 

So I thank you.  That’s my story.  And we’re going to keep fighting, and we’re going to keep trying to pass legislation, and we’re going to keep fighting for our students at Thurgood Marshall, and here in the District of Columbia and across America as well.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  It’s incredible.  Very sad.  Thank you very much. 

 

Does anybody have an idea for a solution to the school shooting, and the school shootings that we’ve gone through over the years?  And we’ve seen too much of it, and we’re going to stop it.  We got a lot of different ideas.  I could name 10 of them right now.  Does anybody have an idea as to how to stop it?  What is your recommendation to stop it? 

 

     Yes. 

 

     MR. ABT:  I don’t know if I’m going to say something you haven’t already heard.  You know, I could tell you that, in addition to all of the sorrow that we are feeling in our community right now, there’s also a lot of anger.  Anger that the police can visit a person dozens of times and not take action.  Anger that the FBI could get at least two credible tips and not take action. 

 

And one possible solution, which we’ve discussed with Secretary DeVos over lunch, was, if a tragedy strikes, can we wait for the first responders to get to the campus four, or five, or six, or seven minutes later? 

 

And one possible solution, which may not be very popular, would be to have people in the school — teachers, administrators — who have volunteered to have a firearm safely locked in the classroom, who are given training throughout the year. 

 

There are plenty of teachers that are already licensed to carry firearms.  Have them raise their hands to volunteer for the training.  And when something like this starts, the first responders are already on campus.  And if it’s not the teachers, you could have people that work on the campus.  A custodian could be an undercover policeman.  Someone who works in the library or the lunchroom could be an undercover policeman.  He serves lunch every day, but he also has a firearm at the ready.  A guidance counselor. 

 

If you can’t stop it from happening, and with hundreds of millions of guns out there, I don’t know if it will ever be fully stopped.  But the challenge becomes, once it starts, to end it as quickly as possible. 

 

And just, unfortunately, you can’t wait five or six or seven minutes.  And what my daughter said earlier, that there are 32 states that have laws that require the schools to prepare for this, and yet, more than half the county — and Broward County is one of them — and our school was prepared.  And thank God it was only 17 lives.  But when more than half of the counties won’t spend the money out of their budget for the training, even though the laws says they should, it will be that many more the next time.  So between having the schools train for lockdowns, and possibly having armed personnel — staff — that are willing to do it —

 

     PARTICIPANT:  Anonymously. 

 

     MR. ABT:  Yeah, anonymously.  I don’t want the kids to know who have the firearms.  I don’t want the shooters to know who have the firearms.  I don’t want people walking around with firearms on their side.  But when that alert goes off, and they put the kids in the closets, and they put the kids under the desks, then I want the teacher to open that safe, pull out that firearm, and be ready to do what needs to be done while you’re waiting for the helicopters and the SWAT teams to come. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  I also agree with that, but I also think that you need more deputies.  You have a campus, at Stoneman Douglas, where I think about thirty-three —

 

     PARTICIPANT:  3,200. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  3,200 with one deputy?  One.  And if that deputy leaves for a training, we need another deputy there. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  And the other thing is communication.  Your schools have to communicate with the police.  The police has to communicate with child services.  Child services maybe has to communicate with FBI if there’s a — and for someone to bring — to buy a gun at 18, to do, I understand like even a background in 15 minutes — you should be able to communicate with all of those other people that something is wrong and this child doesn’t belong — to buy a gun like this. 

 

     PARTICIPANT:  Mr. President.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  You’re right about that.  Yes, go ahead.

 

     PARTICIPANT:  Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary, thank you for having us.  I think what you’re hearing today is, there’s no lack of solutions.  I think what we’ve had today is a lack of leadership.  And I have confidence that you will bring out that leadership that we need to finally take the action that needs to be taken, because there’s not one solution; there’s many solutions.  And you’re hearing some of those here today to resolve this, to address this. 

 

Our schools are soft targets.  So we need to harden the targets by making — increasing our deterrence capabilities so that a potential murderer knows that that’s not going to happen; that there’s going to be people there ready to respond.  That the minute something happens, our technology will pick up that an incident has occurred, and there will be a response immediately.  And then also the children and the teachers know what to do in that instance — so if they’re communicated with effectively. 

 

What we need to identify is where are the mental issues among the student population.  The kids at the school knew this person.  They knew he was an issue.  The FBI knew, and I think we need to close some of these loopholes in the background check system where we’re not integrating effectively the mental health knowledge that exists at the state level, at the local level, into the federal background check system. 

 

     So, fix the NICS system.  And that’s an easy one.  So there’s a lot of immediate steps we can take right now; there’s some longer-term solution.  But I think we need to get started right away.  And I thank you for your help on this. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, too.  And I will say, again, background checks are going to be very strong.  We need that.  And then after we do that, when we see there’s trouble, we have to nab them. 

 

     You know, years ago, we had mental hospitals — mental institutions.  We had a lot of them, and a lot of them have closed.  They’ve closed.  Some people thought it was a stigma.  Some people thought, frankly, it was a — the legislators thought it was too expensive. 

 

Today, if you catch somebody, they don’t know what to do with them.  He hasn’t committed the crime, but he may, very well.  And there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them.  And we have that a lot.  Even if they caught this person — I’m being nice when I use the word “person” — they probably wouldn’t have known what to do.  They’re not going to put them in jail.  And yet — so there’s none of that middle ground of having that institution, where you had trained people that could handle it and do something about it and find out how sick he really is.  Because he is a sick guy.  And he should have been nabbed a number of times, frankly.

 

     Your concept and your idea about — it’s called concealed carry — and it only works where you have people very adept at using firearms, of which you have many, and it would be teachers and coaches.  If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy — that coach was very brave.  Saved a lot of lives, I suspect.  But if he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run; he would have shot and that would have been the end of it. 

 

And this would only be, obviously, for people that are very adept at handling a gun.  And it would be — it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.  They’d go for special training.  And they would be there, and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.   A gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is, let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us.

 

     And if you do this — and a lot of people are talking about it, and it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss — but concealed carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent.  So let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force, because that’s pretty much the number — and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes.  It takes five to eight minutes for responders, for the police, to come in.  So the attack is over.  If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly. 

 

And the good thing about a suggestion like that — and we’re going to be looking at it very strongly, and I think a lot of people are going to be opposed to it; I think a lot of people are going to like it — but the good thing is that you’ll have a lot of people with that.  You know, you can’t have a hundred security guards in Stoneman Douglas.  That’s a big school.  That’s a massive school with a lot of acreage to cover, a lot of floor area. 

 

And so that would be, certainly, a situation that is being discussed a lot by a lot of people.  You’d have a lot people that’d be armed.  They’d be ready.  They’re professionals.  They may be Marines that left the Marines, left the Army, left the Air Force.  And they’re very adept at doing that.  You’d have a lot of them, and they’d be spread evenly throughout the school.

 

So the other thing — I really believe that if these cowards knew that the school was well-guarded, from the standpoint of having, pretty much, professionals with great training, I think they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with.  I think it could very well solve your problem.

 

So we’ll be doing the background checks.  We’ll be doing a lot of different things.  But we’ll certainly be looking at ideas like that. 

 

You know, a lot of people don’t understand that airline pilots now, a lot of them carry guns.  And I have to say that things have changed a lot.  People aren’t attacking the way they would routinely attack.  And maybe you have the same situation in schools.

 

So does anybody like that idea here?  Does anybody like it?  Right?  Yes.  For Meadow — your beautiful Meadow.  We talked about that.

 

And do people feel strongly against it?  Anybody?  Anybody?  Strongly against it?

 

All right.  I mean, I could — look, we can understand both sides.  And certainly, it’s controversial.  But we’ll study that along with many other ideas.

 

Anybody else something to say?  Yes, go ahead.

 

MR. SCOTT:  I’ve been in thousands of schools across America, and I’ve noticed in Israel they have one-guard entry points.  And it’s very well guarded. 

 

I’m not asking for us to (inaudible).  I’m not saying we should turn our schools into prisons.  But I’ve been in so many schools where I’m speaking in an auditorium, and I’ll go outside to call my wife or to just get a breath of fresh air, and it is so easy for me to get back into that school.  I’m an unknown adult to many of those students.  I can tap on a window, and they’ll open the door for me.  Or I can catch someone coming out the side door and easily get in.

 

So one of the things that I have thought a lot about in seeing this around the country is we have really soft entry points into schools.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s true.  That’s true.  And we can do something about that.

 

Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

 

MR. THOMPSON:  Good afternoon.  I’m Brandon Thompson.  First, my heart goes out to everyone who’s experiencing this tragedy right now.  I’m currently dean of students at Friendship Tech Prep, which is in the heart of Southeast D.C., which is in Ward 8, which is one of the most impoverished wards in D.C. 

 

However, at our school, just a solution, we actually have checkpoints.  When a student walks in the door, we actually have metal detectors.  And I oftentimes see that in urban education.  And we actually have an x-ray machine that students put their bags through.  And right after this incident happened, a parent who didn’t so much agree with it at first sent me an email saying, “Thank you.  Because now I see exactly what’s happening.”

 

And so we oftentimes use that TSA model.  When a student comes in, we have somebody at the door to greet them to do a check in just to see how they feel.  And we have certain point people, where I know this person is not feeling so well, so they won’t get past point one.  They go through the metal detector, their bag goes through the machine.  And so, at the end of the day, just talking to my students riding over today, they all say, “Well, I feel safe.”  And you come outside and you said talk about mental hospitals — our school is right across the street from a shutdown mental hospital. 

 

We have — you know, if you were to come over to the streets, you would be like, “Oh my God.”  But once you get inside the building, we have that family feel.  We have those check-in points.  We have it where every visitor that comes through our building has to go through these checkpoints to ensure that our students get home safe, to ensure that our staff members get home safe. 

 

And these are just minor solutions.  Like, I will say, I’m against having a teacher with a gun in the building.  Teachers are emotional.  People are emotional.  So I think that is a huge factor, however.  But having students — and you may have to go to staff members — going through these checkpoints to ensure that, one, their mental is on point; and two, that we’re talking about they don’t have any physical metal on them and/or — even our building, our students don’t even carry cell phones because we consider that’s a threat.  It’s taking away from them learning.  So they actually turn in their cell phones. 

 

And so those things of ensuring our kids are there at the moment, to live the moment, to enjoy school — they get that joy factor.  They get that family feel.  And they’re able, now, to connect with one another and able to communicate, and not have to worry about looking over their shoulder when they walk out and into the building.  Because they know every person that comes through the building has been through a metal check — their bags have been checked.

 

And so that’s just a solution.  Once again, my heart goes out to everyone who has been through this tragedy.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Very well said.  Very well said.  Yes.

 

MS. HOCKLEY:  Mr. President, thank you for being open to hearing all forms of solutions.  I truly appreciate that. 

 

One point on the mental health issue — and I think it’s important to note that someone with a mental illness is highly unlikely to ever commit an act of violence.  It’s a very, very small percentage.

 

What we’re really dealing here is more of the lack of mental wellness.  This is around anger and fear.  And that’s not something that you can diagnose and put in mental health hospitals.  This is more about funding for mental health services to help these individuals that are at risk, especially when we think about suicide, teen suicide.  Suicide is the number two killer of our children as I understand right now.  And a lot of these suicides are performed with firearms, which makes them unsaveable.      

 

So the idea of mental health and being able to identify who’s at risk, who’s considering these issues, who’s going into crisis, that is incredibly important.

 

I appreciate the point on arming teachers.  It’s not, personally, something that I support.  Rather than arm them with a firearm, I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place.  How do you identify the kids in your class that are most at risk?  And then, most importantly within a school, how do we have a safety assessment program so that schools know how to deal with all these threats; have established protocols to deal with them, and get underneath the surface of what’s going on in that child’s life; find out why they’re on this pathway behavior and intervene?

 

This is about prevention.  There are some fabulous solutions being talked about today, which still go to imminent danger.  Let’s talk about prevention.  There is so much that we can do to help people before it reaches that point.  And I urge you, please, stay focused on that as well.  It is the gun, it’s the person behind the gun, and it’s about helping people before they ever reach that point.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, go ahead.  Thank you.

 

MR. ZEIF:  So I fully respect all of our amendments, including the Second.  But in Maryland, they have proven that the Second Amendment does not protect these types of weapons.  They have banned over 45 different kinds of assault weapons, including the AR.  Including the AR.  They have banned — they have limited magazine sizes. 

 

They have proven that it’s not like we have to lose our Second Amendment.  You know, these — the Second Amendment, I believe, was for defense, and I fully respect that, like I said.  But these are not weapons of defense; these are weapons of war.  And I just — I still can’t fathom that I, myself, am able to purchase one.

 

Anyone?

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

 

MR. HUNTER POLLACK:  I would like to talk, Mr. President.  I couldn’t agree — I’m not here to debate, but I lost my sister.  And like Mr. President said, if you could find 20 percent of maybe retired law enforcement officers or teachers that could go through discreet training to carry a firearm on his waist, it could have been a very different situation. 

 

Like he said, law enforcement, it takes them seven minutes, eight minutes, to get there.  If a teacher or a security guard has a concealed license and the firearm on their waist, they’re able to easily stop the situation, or the bad guy — I’ll but it that way — would not even go near the school knowing that someone can fight back against them.       

 

Also, I believe that is insanity that they would even open the gates up 20 minutes before school ends.  They’re supposed to protect us and the children.  So in the future, we need more security, we need more firearms on campus, we need better background checks, and we need to study more on mental health. 

 

And I want to thank everyone for their condolences.  And that’s my only argument.  Thank you.

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you. 

 

Yes, go ahead.

 

MR. LAWRENCE:  Well, thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary for having us here.  My deepest condolences for those who have — deepest condolences for those who have lost family and friends. 

 

My name is Curtis Lawrence.  I’m the principal at Friendship Collegiate Academy.  And like Mr. Brandon had said, we have security and we also have MPD on staff that we hired to make sure that things aren’t coming into our school, and also, immediately in the mornings and during dismissal, immediately around the school to protect our kids as they leave. 

 

But last month, we did suffer a loss.  One of our ninth graders was gunned down walking distance from the school.  And so when we talk about safe passage, I think in looking at what’s happening with gun violence, with our scholars and with our students, I’m saying take a double approach, right?  You have to protect kids that are in schools.

 

All right, so as a President you have different laws in different states, and so definitely where they don’t have the necessary security as we may have with getting in, then we have to think of what are those solutions for the kids in Florida that are going to those schools with that to make sure that they’re safe in school.  And then in places like here in D.C., what are those solutions to make sure kids are able to get home and to school safety? 

 

So I think it’s a two-prong approach and I know you have a specific position to — as you meet with the governors, and they have their different laws and coming from these different perspectives to make them own that two-prong approach to protect them in school and protect as well out of school, going back and forth. 

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

 

MR. BARDEN:  Mr. President, thank you so much, and thank you, Vice President and Madam Secretary, for convening this and for allowing us all the opportunity to speak about this very serious problem. 

 

And my heart absolutely breaks for the families of Parkland.  I have a sense of what you’re going through now.  I have been going through it for five years.  This is my son Daniel.  He was seven years old when he was shot to death in his first-grade classroom in Sandy Hook Elementary School just a little over five years ago.

 

My wife, Jackie, could not be here today because she’s a schoolteacher and she takes that job seriously, and sent me as the ambassador.  Jackie is a career educator and she will tell you — she has spent over a decade in the Bronx — and she will tell you that schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life.  (Applause.)  Thank you. 

 

Nobody wants to see a shootout in a school and a deranged sociopath on his way to commit an act of murder in a school with the outcome — knowing the outcome is going to be suicide, he’s not going to care if there’s somebody there with a gun.  That’s their plan anyway. 

 

I am going to build on what my friend and colleague, Nicole Hockley, said.  We tried this legislative approach.  I’ve been in this building before, many times, wringing our hands, pleading with legislators, “What can we do?”  Until we finally said, well, we have to go home and do this ourselves.

 

And we built something.  Sandy Hook Promise has built something that works.  We train students and we train teachers and we train educators with the tools, how to recognize these people, and with the tools of how to intervene, and with the tools to get them to the help that they need before they pick up a gun or any other weapon and commit a horrible tragedy.  It works.  We don’t charge for it.  We’re not asking for money. 

 

We’ve already stopped school shootings.  We’ve already prevented suicides.  We’ve already captured other social issues like bullying and cutting.  We know that it works.  We have a solution right here.  We’re asking for you to please help.  We need to do this nationally, now.  Thank you. 

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mark.  Thank you.

 

SECRETARY DEVOS:  Mr. President. 

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

 

SECRETARY DEVOS:  I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you and the Vice President, and to thank everyone here for joining us today, for telling your stories, for sharing your perspectives.  And please know that this is the beginning of a long conversation.  We are committed to seeing a solution to this very, very tragic and horrible situation.  And so, know that our hearts will continue to be with all of the families affected here. 

And thank you again for being with us today.

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Betsy, and thank you, Mike, and thank you everybody for being with us.  We’re going to work very hard.  It’s very difficult, it’s very complex, but we’re going to find a solution.  We have been looking at this issue for a long time — too long as far as I’m concerned.  And you’ll be back — you’ll be back in a much more positive light.  We will get there. 

 

If you have any suggestions, if you have any feelings as to what we should do — because there are many different ideas — some, I guess, are good.  Some aren’t good.  Some are very stringent, as you understand.  And a lot of people think they work.  And some are less so.     

 

But in addition to everything else, and in addition to what we’re going to do about background checks — we’re going to go very strongly to age, that’s age of purchase, and we’re also going to go very strongly to the mental health aspect of what’s going on.  Because here was a case where he cried out — this person was sick, very sick.  And people knew he was very sick. 

 

And I know law enforcement is also — I really learned a lot from this — we’re also going to look at the institutions.  We’re going to look at what to do when you find somebody like this — because again, right now we’re not equipped like we were many years ago.  So we’re going to look at that whole aspect of what’s going on. 

 

I want to thank everybody.  I know you’ve been through a lot.  Most of you have been through a lot — more than you ever thought possible.  More than you ever thought humanly possible.  And all I can say is that we’re fighting hard for you, and we will not stop.  We will not stop.  We’re going to get there.  And I just grieve for you.  I feel so — it’s just, to me, there could be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through.

 

Again, thank you for your ideas.  Thank you for your thoughts.  Thank you for pouring out your hearts, because the world is watching.  And we’re going to come up with a solution.

 

God bless you all.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

 

                                           END                

Remarks From White House Listening Session on School Shootings

THE WHITE HOUSE

 

Office of the Press Secretary


                       For Immediate Release                          February 21, 2018

 

 

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP

AND VICE PRESIDENT PENCE

AT LISTENING SESSION WITH

STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND PARENTS

 

State Dining Room

 

 

 

4:21 P.M. EST

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Have a seat. 

 

It’s a great honor to have you here, and we’re going to be listening to some of your suggestions.  I’ve heard some of them, and we’re going to do something about this horrible situation that’s going on.  And we’re going to all figure it out together.

 

So I want to listen, and then after I listen, we’re going to get things done.

 

I thought we’d start off — Pastor, if you could possibly say the prayer, it would be appreciated.  Thank you.

 

PASTOR URRABAZO:  (A prayer is given.)

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Pastor.  Appreciate it.

 

     Vice President, you wanted to say and I’d like you to say a few words.  And I’d like to then introduce you to Betsy DeVos, who most of you know and some of you have met a little while ago.

 

     Mike, what do you have to say?

 

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  First off, thank you, Mr. President.  I want to thank the families from Parkland for being here, and assure you of the deepest condolences and sympathies of the First Family and our family, and of the American people. 

 

     As the President said last week, the American people are united with one heart, broken by what took place.  But the President called this meeting for us as much to talk about what’s happened in our country over the last 20 years, and to find out from all of you gathered here, by listening, by learning, how we might ensure that this is the last time this ever happens. 

 

     I, along with the President, are deeply moved by the stories of heroism and courage.  And I’m candidly moved by the courage that it takes for many of you to be here today.  And what I just want to encourage you to do is tell us your stories.  America is looking on.  And your President, our entire administration, leaders around the country at every level are looking on.  And we want to hear your hearts today.  I encourage you to be candid and be vulnerable, and share with us not only this personal experience, but what it is that you would have us to do. 

 

     And just know that as the President has already taken action, he’ll be meeting in this very room in the coming days with governors from all 50 states to make school safety the top priority of this administration and across this country.

 

     The President and I wanted to hear from you all first.  And so I want to say thank you for coming, thank you for the courage and being willing to be here and share your hearts.  And just, from our family to your family, just God bless you and comfort you.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mike, very much.  Betsy.

 

     SECRETARY DEVOS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Students, teachers, parents: Thanks for being here.  For many of you, you’ve lived through something unthinkable.  For many of you it’s raw and fresh. 

 

     I admire your strength and bravery to come share your experience with the President, the Vice President, and the world.  No student, no parent, no teacher should ever have to endure what you all have. 

 

And my heart is broken.  What happened last week shocked us, it angers us, and it pains us. 

 

We are here to have an earnest conversation about why this tragedy, and too many others before it, happened, and how we can work to find solutions.  We’re here to listen, to gain your important perspective on ways to reduce violence and to protect students. 

 

Our hope is that by talking and by listening, we can make something that was unthinkably bad, something good.  And your loss and your trauma must never be in vain.  So thank you again for being here, and let’s get started.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Betsy.  And I just want to say before we really begin — because I want to hear your input — we’re going to be very strong on background checks.  We’re going to be doing very strong background checks.  Very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody.  And we are going to do plenty of other things. 

 

Again, next week, the governors are coming in from most of the states, and we’re going to have a very serious talk about what’s going on with school safety.  Very important.  And we’re going to cover every aspect of it.  There are many ideas that I have.  There are many ideas that other people have.  And we’re going to pick out the strongest ideas, the most important ideas, the ideas that are going to work.  And we’re going to get them done.  It’s not going to be talk like it has been in the past.  It’s been going on too long; too many instances.  And we’re going to get it done. 

 

     So, again, I want to thank you all for being here.  And I’d like to hear your story.  And I’d also like to, if you have any suggestions for the future based on this horrible experience that you’ve gone through — I’d love to have those ideas.

 

How about we start with you. 

 

     MS. CORDOVER:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. President, for having me here.  My name is Julia Cordover, and I’m from Stoneman Douglas High School, and I was there during the shooting.  And I am a survivor. 

 

     And I want you guys all to emphasize the point that I survived.  I was lucky enough to come home from school, unlike some of my other classmates and teachers.  And it’s very scary.  And knowing that a lot of people did not have this opportunity to be here still is mind-blowing.  And I’m just — I feel like there is a lot to do, and I really appreciate you hosting me and what you are saying.  I’m confident that you’ll do the right thing, and I appreciate you looking at the bump stocks yesterday.  That means it is definitely a step in the right direction, and I think we can all agree on that. 

 

     There’s definitely a lot more to go, but I am just grateful that I’m here and that we can try to work out something.  Maybe compromise on some solution so this never has to — no child, no person in this world will ever have to go something — through so horrific and tragic.  And my thoughts and prayers are out to everyone there.  So, thank you. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  I really appreciate it. 

 

     MR. BLANK:  Hello, my name is Jonathan Blank.  I go to Stoneman Douglas, and I was actually in the second classroom that was shot at.  In my mind, as a kid, nothing ever that horrible should ever have to happen to you.  You can’t even think about it.  It doesn’t even seem real still.  Everything seems fake.  I can’t even — I don’t even know what’s going on.  It’s just crazy, everything happening.  It’s just so tragic. 

 

Thank you for everything.  You’ve done a great job, and I like the direction that you’re going in.  Thank you. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  My name is Melissa Blank.  Jonathan is my son.  And I am a teacher’s aide at Westglades Middle School that was also on lockdown.  So I couldn’t get in touch with my son to find out if my son was alive or not.  I feel for all of these families.  My heart is just broken for my whole community.  We’re coming together.  I feel for all the families who have lost, and I feel for the ones that are here because we now have almost a guilt like I have.  Why not my child?  Which I feel bad saying I’m happy that he’s here with me.  But I feel so bad for all of you who have lost so many.  And I’m just begging for a change.  We need a change.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you. 

 

     MRS. ABT:  Do you mind — may I pass the microphone back to my daughter, because I think she has some nice solutions and — if that’s okay with you. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Sure. 

 

     MRS. ABT:  Thank you. 

 

     MS. ABT:  Hi, my name is Carson Abt.  I am a junior, and I was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas at the time of the shooting.  And I know there are a lot of different solutions that we can go through to help eradicate this issue, but one that stuck out to me was about all the drills and protocols that my teachers had to go through.  They knew what to do once the code red for an active shooter was announced.  But, through research, I found that only 32 states require drills.  But of those 32 states, more than half of the counties do not go through the drills because they want to spend their resources towards something else. 

 

     And I know that a bill was also passed that declared that each school has to go through one drill each month.  But I know that my school, we go through fire drills every month, and we have not had our lockdown drill yet this year. 

 

And I think a change that will increase all of the trainings and protocols, so if God forbid another shooting does happen, at least all the teachers will be prepared and can hopefully keep their students calm. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

 

     MS. KLEIN:  Hi, my name is Ariana Klein.  I would just like to say thank you for leading this country.  You’re a great leader, and I appreciate the direction that the country is going in. 

 

     I’m a junior; I attend Stoneman Douglas.  And I just want to say that everybody right now is so stuck on what they believe, that they’re not even listening to what other people believe.  We need to listen to the other points of views.  We all need to realize that we all have different points of views and that we need — this solution is not going to be a singular thing.  It’s going to be multi-faceted and it’s going to be created by a collection of different people working together.

 

And we all have to realize that we all have our opinions, and together we’re going to be able to work to a solution.  And this is not just Parkland anymore, this is America.  This is every student in every city, everywhere.  It’s everybody.  It’s not small.  It’s everything. 

 

     And I’d just like to say thank you for having us.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I appreciate it. 

 

     MR. ABT:  My name is Fred Abt.  I’m Carson’s dad.  I’m going to pass the microphone along to some of the other students.  If we have a chance later on, perhaps I’ll speak or other parents could speak.  But I’d like students to get their chance. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks.  Very nice. 

 

     MR. GRUBER, JR.:  My name is Justin Gruber, and I was at the school at the time of the massacre.  I’m only 15 years old.  I’m a sophomore.  Nineteen years ago, the first school shooting, Columbine — at Columbine High School happened.  And I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace.

 

    There needs to be a significant change in this country because this has to never happen again.  And people should be able to feel that, when they go to school, they can be safe.  And — because there needs to be a change — I’m sorry.  People need to feel safe.  And parents shouldn’t have to go through the idea of losing their child.  As I know, from my dad, he was panicking and he couldn’t imagine it.  So that shouldn’t even be a possibility that should go through a parent’s mind.  There needs to be some change.  Thank you. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much. 

 

     MR. GRUBER, SR.:  I’m Cary Gruber, Justin’s dad.  And I’ll be brief.  You know, Justin was texting me, hiding in a closet, saying, “If something happens, I love you.  If something happens, I love you.”  And you can’t imagine what that’s like as a parent.  And then his phone died, and I didn’t know what happened for another hour or so. 

 

So, 17 lives are gone.  I was lucky enough to get my son home, but 17 families — this is — it’s not left and right, it’s not political.  It’s a human issue.  People are dying.  And we have to stop this.  We have to stop.  If he’s not old enough to buy a drink — to go and buy a beer, he should not be able to buy a gun at 18 years old.  I mean, that’s just a common sense.  We have to do common sense.  Please, Mr. Trump, these are things we have to do. 

 

     In Israel, you have to be 27 years old to have a gun.  You’re only allowed one.  They tax the guns.  You have to go through significant training.  

 

     We got to do something about this.  We cannot have our children die.  This is just heartbreaking.  Please.  Thank you.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you. 

 

     MS. MORRIS:  Hi, my name is Shannon Morris.  I’m a local administrator for a school in D.C., and I really want to continue the conversation for our students.

 

     MS. MARCUS:  Hi, my name is Vielka Marcus, and I’m also a local educator here in Washington, D.C. for Friendship Public Charter Schools.  So I will allow our students that are here to voice their opinions, as well as give some of their ideas to do that at this time. 

 

And my condolences and my heart truly go out to not just the families that have lost children in this horrific, horrific incident that has occurred, but also to our families here in the District of Columbia that experience gun violence outside of our schools that directly impact our schools because they are our students.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

 

MS. BARNETT:  Hello.  My name is Alaya Barnett, and I go to the Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy in the heart of Southeast D.C.  

 

My condolences to every family here that experienced the shooting and all the students that experienced that.  And I’m here on behalf of my school and all of the Friendship Schools in D.C. to be able to prevent those kind of things happening at our school.  Because in Southeast D.C., we do encounter a lot of violence and things — most of the time at night, but a lot of the times it’s in the daytime too.

 

So our schools, we do take preventative measures and everything to stop that.  Like, we check bags at the door and everything.  And it does make us — at first, we’re like, “No, we don’t want to do this.”  But then we realize it’s for our safety.

 

But we wanted to make sure that it continues and that nothing can ever slip up for these things to happen like in school.  Counseling for our students who are struggling with fear and bullying.  Bullying triggers emotions that would make a student want to bring a weapon to school to protect themselves or to get revenge for a person that did something to them.

 

So we just want to have a lot of preventative measures to be in the schools — and also outside of school — to make sure that nothing can happen to us while we’re in school.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

 

MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY:  Hello, Mr. President.  Thank you for having us.  I’m Christine Hunschofsky.  I’m the mayor of the city of Parkland. 

 

We have a great city.  It’s been one of the safest cities in America.  And the fact that this happened in our city means it can happen anywhere. 

 

We are blessed that we are a very close-knit, family-oriented city, and our community is coming together.  We lost 17 lives, but the ripple effects throughout the community are devastating.  I have spent the last week going to funerals — friends of mine that lost their children.

 

We have to, at some point, care enough and be strong enough to come up with solutions.  And I hope we will.  And if I might, I had two parents who lost children this past week text me some of their thoughts, if I might share them with you.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

 

MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY:  Thank you.  I spoke to Jennifer and Tony Montalto.  They just buried their daughter Gina yesterday. 

 

And their comments were — so Tony is a airline pilot.  And he said he supports the Second Amendment, but he does not believe there is a need for assault rifles.  He also said that the FBI, there were signs missed.  And it reminded him of 9/11.  So we do have to work on making sure that our protocols are in place so that people don’t slip through the cracks, literally, in this case.

 

We also talked about the red flag laws.  I think there’s a little progress being made in Florida now on the red flag laws, which is, when somebody shows signs of hurting themselves or someone else, you can take their gun away from them.

 

Fred Guttenberg, a service for his daughter Jaime was last week, on Friday.  And he would like the administration to publicly acknowledge the role of guns.  Now, these two parents talked about guns, and there are absolutely lots of areas where there’s room for improvement — lots of areas — from mental health, from teacher training.  But also — part of that is also the gun issue.  So it’s not that it’s just those and not the gun; it’s all of them. 

 

     And in the debate world, in the high school debate world, the kids talk about when they bring up legislation, you want to have impacts.  You’re not bringing up legislation that doesn’t have a positive impact.  And what is the positive impact of having legislation that stops assault rifles — bans assault rifles?  It could save a life.  And that needs to be a priority in any case.  And when we talk about rights — so we have the right for free speech, but if free speech in any way endangers someone, it gets restricted. 

 

     And I think — I appreciate that we’re coming here to listen, and I appreciate that we’re coming here to look at all different perspectives, because we need action and we need to be solution-oriented.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  Thank you.

 

     MR. POLLACK:  We’re here because my daughter has no voice.  She was murdered last week, and she was taken from us.  Shot nine times on the third floor. 

 

     We, as a country, failed our children.  This shouldn’t happen.  We go to the airport — I can’t get on a plane with a bottle of water.  But we leave it — some animal can walk into a school and shoot our children.  It’s just not right, and we need to come together as a country and work on what’s important, and that’s protecting our children in the schools.  That’s the only thing that matters right now.  Everyone has to come together and not think about different laws.  We need to come together, as a country — not different parties — and figure out how we protect the schools.  It’s simple.  It’s not difficult.

 

     We protect airports.  We protect concerts, stadiums, embassies, the Department of Education that I walked in today that has a security guard in the elevator.  How do you think that makes me feel?  In the elevator, they got a security guard. 

 

     I’m very angry that this happened, because it keeps happening.  9/11 happened once, and they fixed everything.  How many schools, how many children have to get shot?  It stops here with this administration and me.  I’m not going to sleep until it’s fixed. 

 

     And, Mr. President, we’re going to fix it, because I’m going to fix it.  I’m not going to rest.  And look it, my boys need to live with this.  I want to see everyone — you guys look at this.  Me, I’m a man, but to see your children go through this, bury their sister.

 

     So that’s why I’m keep saying this, because I want it to sink in, not forget about this.  We can’t forget about it.  All these school shootings, it doesn’t make sense.  Fix it.  It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it.  And I’m pissed, because my daughter I’m not going to see again.  She’s not here.  She’s not here.  She’s in North Lauderdale, at — whatever it is — King David Cemetery.  That’s where I go to see my kid now.  And it stops if we all work together and come up with the right idea.  And it’s school safety.  It’s not about gun laws right now; that’s another fight, another battle.  Let’s fix the schools, and then you guys can battle it out, whatever you want.

 

     But we need our children safe.  Monday, tomorrow, whatever day it is, your kids are going to go to school.  You think everyone’s kids are safe?  I didn’t think it was going to happen to me.  If I knew that, I would have been at the school every day if I knew it was that dangerous.

 

     It’s enough.  Let’s get together and work with the President and fix the schools.  That’s it.  No other discussions.  Security, whatever we have to do — get the right people, the consultants.  These are our commodities.  I’m never going to see my kid again.  I want you all to know that.  Never, ever will I see my kid.  That’s how — I want it to sink in.  It’s eternity.  My beautiful daughter, I’m never going to see again.

 

     And it’s simple.  It’s not — we could fix — this is my son Huck, who has to deal with this too.  You have something to say, son?

 

     MR. HUCK POLLACK:  I just want to add that it’s imperative to the safety of everyone to support the free market and free flow of ideas, and listen to people on — listen to radical opinions on both sides.  And that’s how we’ll find solutions.  You let people battle it out in a free flow of ideas.  Censorship has got to stop.  And that’s how we find the solutions, by listening to everyone, having an open mind. 

 

     MR. POLLACK:  This is my son Hunter.

 

     MR. HUNTER POLLACK:  How are you?  I’m Hunter Pollack, class of ’15, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.  I walked the same hallways where Meadow got shot and all 16 other victims.

 

     First off, I want to thank Mr. President for having us.  We had a very effective meeting before we walked in this room. 

 

     Mr. Vice President, as well, and Madam Secretary, I put all of my trust into them and my father that, together, that we’ll be able to find a solution.

 

     And that’s all I have to say.  Thank you for having us.

 

     MR. ZEIF:  Hi, my name is Sam Zeif.  I’m a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland.  And I just want to take a second first to thank you for having me, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary. 

 

     I was on the second floor in that building, texting my mom, texting my dad, texting three of my brothers that I was never going to see them again.  And then it occurred to me that my 14-year-old brother was directly above me in that classroom where Scott Beigel was murdered. 

 

     Scott Beigel got my brother in the class.  He was the last kid to get back into that class.  And I’m sure a lot of you have read my texts on the Internet with my brother.  I didn’t plan for them to go viral.  I just wanted to share with the world, because no brothers, or sisters, or family members, or anyone should ever have to share those texts with anyone.

 

     And that’s why I’m here.  I lost a best friend, who’s practically a brother.  And I’m here to use my voice because I know he can’t.  And I know he’s with me, cheering me on, to be strong.  But it’s hard.  And to feel like this — it doesn’t even feel like a week.  Time has stood still.  To feel like this, ever, I can’t feel comfortable in my country knowing that people have, will have, are ever going to feel like this. 

 

     And I want to feel safe at school.  You know, senior year and junior year, they were big years for me, when I turned my academics around, started connecting with teachers, and I started actually enjoying school.  And now, I don’t know how I’m ever going to step foot on that place again, or go to a public park after school, or be walking anywhere.  Me and my friends, we get scared when a car drives by — anywhere. 

 

     And I think I agree with Hunter and Huck, and how we need to let ideas flow and get the problem solved.  I don’t understand.  I turned 18 the day after.  Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone.  And I don’t understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war — an AR. 

 

     I was reading today that a person, 20 years old, walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes with an expired ID.  How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon?  How did we not stop this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook?  I’m sitting with a mother that lost her son, and it’s still happening. 

 

     In Australia, there was a shooting at a school in 1999.  And you know, after that, they took a lot of ideas, they put legislation together, and they stopped it.  Can anyone here guess how many shootings there have been in the schools since then in Australia?  Zero. 

 

     We need to do something, and that’s why we’re here.  So let’s be strong for the fallen who don’t have a voice to speak anymore.  And let’s never let this happen again.  Please.  Please. 

 

     MS. HOCKLEY:  Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary, my story is far too well known.  I had two sons who were at Sandy Hook school.  My eldest, who was eight at the time, survived.  And my 6-year-old son Dylan did not.

 

     And I have been working tirelessly on this issue for over five years now.  The organization that I help lead, Sandy Hook Promise, is very focused on keeping kids safe at school —  because no parent should go through this.  Every parent who sends their kid to school should know, without any question in their mind, that they’re going to be coming home that day.

 

     This is not a difficult issue.  You’re absolutely right.  There are solutions, and this administration has the ability to put them in place.  And after Sandy Hook, they said we wouldn’t let this happen again, and yet it has continued to happen for five years.  How many more deaths can we take as a country?  How many more teenagers and six- and seven-year-olds can we allow to die? 

 

Don’t let that happen anymore on your watch.  There are things that you can do right now.  Mental health, you mentioned earlier; funding for that would be very much appreciated.  The STOP School Violence Act, enabling prevention programs and reporting systems in schools across America.  It’s already passed through the House.  It’s in the Senate right now.  Urge swift passage right now.  That can get a lot of help to schools.

 

I absolutely agree, since Sandy Hook, there has been an increase in school safety and security.  We’ve invested a lot on the bricks and mortar of our schools; we’ve invested a lot on the security of our schools.  I think we also need to focus on prevention.  How do we prevent these acts from happening?  How can we help identify and get help for people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others before they pick up any weapon? 

 

That’s what we need to focus on, by preventing these acts.  And you have the ability to do that.  There’s legislation available to you right now.  There are free training programs, such as our Know the Signs Programs, available across the states.  Right now, you could mandate these sorts of programs.  You could ensure that schools, students, and educators are trained how to recognize these signs and to know what to do when they see them, and then to ensure that those tips are followed through.

 

This is not difficult.  These deaths are preventable.  And I implore you, consider your own children.  You don’t want to be me.  No parent does.  And you have the ability to make a difference and save lives today.  Please don’t waste this.  Thank you.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.

 

MR. SCOTT:  Mr. President, Vice President, and Mrs. DeVos, thank you for inviting my wife and I to be here today.  I’m a little bit weak; I had surgery last week, so I’m kind of weak in voice and body.  But 19 years ago, I went through what some of the folks here are going through now, because my beautiful daughter Rachel was killed.  And my son Craig was in the library that day, and two of his friends were murdered beside him.  He lay there covered in their blood, looking down the barrel of two guns aimed at him.  And he knew he was going to die. 

 

     And a split second before Eric and Dylan pulled the trigger, the alarm system went off and it distracted them, and they never came back to the table where Craig was at, or I would have lost two children that day at Columbine.

 

     So my heart goes out to you, sir, and to every one of you that have experienced the trauma that you’ve gone through at Parkland.

 

     Our focus has been — my beautiful wife, the most beautiful lady in the room is right there, in the blue and white blouse, Sandy.  We started a program called Rachel’s Challenge, and it was started a year after Rachel died.  And we have worked with some wonderful partners over the last few years. 

 

We work closely with Chuck Norris and his wife Gena in a problem they call Kickstart for Kids.  We work with Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Bill, and have created a program for athletes called The Uncommon Athlete, and it’s based on something my daughter wrote in one of her diaries.  We have partnered with Dr. Robert Marzano who’s one of the top K-12 researchers in the country, and a program called WhyTry — all dear friends — and another program called Love and Logic, Dr. Jim Fay — one of the largest parenting programs.

 

     All of us combined our efforts together.  Our organization has reached over 28 million students in the last 19 years, and we have seen seven school shootings prevented.  We see an average of three suicides prevented every single week of the year — over 150 a year.  I have a little book with me that I’d like to leave with you.  It’s got letters from students.  We don’t edit them.  These are emails from students who were planning to commit suicide.  And we see three of those every single week — students that have changed their mind.

 

     And if you don’t mind, I just want to share one simple principle with you that we’ve learned over the years as we’ve worked with millions and millions of young people, and it comes from something you said last week in your speech.  And it was that we must create a culture of connectedness; we must create a culture in which our classmates become our friends.

 

     That’s something we’ve learned how to do over the years.  We have over 28 different programs, and we see children connect with one another.  Every single one of these school shootings have been from young men who are disconnected.  And we talk a lot about the mental health issues, but it actually goes deeper than that because there’s a lot of mentally ill children that are kind and compassionate. 

 

     And so we work with those children every single day of the year — of the school year, but there’s always the one with the propensity to violence. 

 

     And so one of the things we have learned — and we train young people and we train teachers — that the focus must not be just on unity or diversity.  Because if you focus too much on diversity, you create division.  If you focus too much on unity, you’ll create compromise.  But if you focus on relatedness and how we can relate with one another, then you can celebrate the diversity and you can see the unity take place.

 

     I’m all for diversity, I’m all for unity, but the focus really needs to be on how can we connect.  And that’s something that we and our organizations have learned.  One thing we have learned is how to connect students with each other, with themselves, with their teachers, and with their parents.  And I would love to share more as we have a chance to do so.

 

     Thank you again for having us today.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.  This is an incredible group of people, and we really do appreciate it.

 

     Some of the folks in the back, and some of my friends sitting right back here, I’d like to have you say a few words.  We can learn a lot from you.  We want to learn everything we can learn, and we’re going to go — starting about two minutes after this meeting, we’re going to work, because this is a long-term situation that we have to solve.  We’ll solve it together.  And you’ve gone through extraordinary pain, and we don’t want others to go through the kind of pain that you’ve gone through.  It wouldn’t be right.

 

     So would you like to say something, please?

 

     MR. KELLY:  Thank you, Mr. President.  My name is Curtis Kelly.  I represent Thurgood Marshall Academy here in the District of Columbia.  Thank you, Vice President and Madam Secretary, for having myself and Gregory Baldwin, who represents Thurgood Marshall.

 

     My tragedy started September the 20th of last year.  I have two twin sons that attend Thurgood Marshall, and they are elite athletes, junior Olympics.  One of my sons was the youth council member for the District of Columbia in Ward 5.  And one day he was — this is after school.  Now, we need to — I agree we need to protect our kids in schools, but we need to protect them on their safe passageways home as well, and their extracurricular activities, and their parks and recreations, and everything, that they try to go for their peace in.

    

     So my son, Zaire Kelly, went to college-bound — right after school — to announce that he was declaring for his college to run track and to further his education, and become mayor of the District of Columbia, or something like that.

 

     On his route home, he got a text from my son, Zion Kelly, who was going to make it, but when he found out there was press, he decided not to.  Because, locally, we were burnt by the press.  Zion is texting Zaire, “Watch out, there’s someone in our passageway coming home.”  And in a split second, Zaire was just walking home, maybe from this distance to where the curtains are — he was that close to home — when a thug came out to try to rob Zion, and he tried to rob Zaire.  He tried to rob Zion 20 minutes earlier.  He came back because he was upset, he didn’t get them students.  “Those fast track kids — I’m going to come back and get them.”  He went, caught my son, got in an altercation over a cell phone, and shot my son in the head.  And now he’s not here with us. 

 

That day, I could have lost two sons.  But the tragedy that my family have to live with after losing Zaire is — I have another son that attends Thurgood Marshall.  He’s — we’ve been taking him to all types of family counseling and therapy.  And the school has been affected.  The community has been affected.  And the local politicians say, “So what we want to do is stand up for our students in the community, give us some solutions as to what we can do.”  So myself, along with helping hands in D.C., came together and got with attorneys.  And everyone else said, okay, we’re going to do some research and find out what legislation can be found that can better serve to protect our students in their safety zones and their school zones. 

 

And it’s been a fight, because everybody show up for photo ops.  All the politicians show up to say, “We going to get it done.  We going to protect our kids.”  But just a couple weeks later, a school shooting, just like we all hearing about all these experiences, at Ballou Senior High School — a kid gets shot at school.  Dunbar — a kid gets shot in school.  In our schools, on their safe passageway home.  Their parks and recreations, extracurricular.  Our students have to be protected.  Our students have to be protected.

 

One local legislator asked me, how do you define students?  How would a criminal define students?  You would define them after you commit a crime against them.  The students are crying.  They’re calling for a national stand-out day, April the 20th, in celebration of Columbine — because the same incidents keep happening not just in our schools — in our communities, as well — to upstanding citizens, to those that’s doing the right thing.

 

And we as parents, yes, we’re trying to fight to pass legislation just like you, locally.  But nationally, this campaign has grown and it’s affecting all of us, all our kids, this gun violence — gun violence. 

 

So I thank you.  That’s my story.  And we’re going to keep fighting, and we’re going to keep trying to pass legislation, and we’re going to keep fighting for our students at Thurgood Marshall, and here in the District of Columbia and across America as well.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  It’s incredible.  Very sad.  Thank you very much. 

 

Does anybody have an idea for a solution to the school shooting, and the school shootings that we’ve gone through over the years?  And we’ve seen too much of it, and we’re going to stop it.  We got a lot of different ideas.  I could name 10 of them right now.  Does anybody have an idea as to how to stop it?  What is your recommendation to stop it? 

 

     Yes. 

 

     MR. ABT:  I don’t know if I’m going to say something you haven’t already heard.  You know, I could tell you that, in addition to all of the sorrow that we are feeling in our community right now, there’s also a lot of anger.  Anger that the police can visit a person dozens of times and not take action.  Anger that the FBI could get at least two credible tips and not take action. 

 

And one possible solution, which we’ve discussed with Secretary DeVos over lunch, was, if a tragedy strikes, can we wait for the first responders to get to the campus four, or five, or six, or seven minutes later? 

 

And one possible solution, which may not be very popular, would be to have people in the school — teachers, administrators — who have volunteered to have a firearm safely locked in the classroom, who are given training throughout the year. 

 

There are plenty of teachers that are already licensed to carry firearms.  Have them raise their hands to volunteer for the training.  And when something like this starts, the first responders are already on campus.  And if it’s not the teachers, you could have people that work on the campus.  A custodian could be an undercover policeman.  Someone who works in the library or the lunchroom could be an undercover policeman.  He serves lunch every day, but he also has a firearm at the ready.  A guidance counselor. 

 

If you can’t stop it from happening, and with hundreds of millions of guns out there, I don’t know if it will ever be fully stopped.  But the challenge becomes, once it starts, to end it as quickly as possible. 

 

And just, unfortunately, you can’t wait five or six or seven minutes.  And what my daughter said earlier, that there are 32 states that have laws that require the schools to prepare for this, and yet, more than half the county — and Broward County is one of them — and our school was prepared.  And thank God it was only 17 lives.  But when more than half of the counties won’t spend the money out of their budget for the training, even though the laws says they should, it will be that many more the next time.  So between having the schools train for lockdowns, and possibly having armed personnel — staff — that are willing to do it —

 

     PARTICIPANT:  Anonymously. 

 

     MR. ABT:  Yeah, anonymously.  I don’t want the kids to know who have the firearms.  I don’t want the shooters to know who have the firearms.  I don’t want people walking around with firearms on their side.  But when that alert goes off, and they put the kids in the closets, and they put the kids under the desks, then I want the teacher to open that safe, pull out that firearm, and be ready to do what needs to be done while you’re waiting for the helicopters and the SWAT teams to come. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  I also agree with that, but I also think that you need more deputies.  You have a campus, at Stoneman Douglas, where I think about thirty-three —

 

     PARTICIPANT:  3,200. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  3,200 with one deputy?  One.  And if that deputy leaves for a training, we need another deputy there. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah. 

 

     MRS. BLANK:  And the other thing is communication.  Your schools have to communicate with the police.  The police has to communicate with child services.  Child services maybe has to communicate with FBI if there’s a — and for someone to bring — to buy a gun at 18, to do, I understand like even a background in 15 minutes — you should be able to communicate with all of those other people that something is wrong and this child doesn’t belong — to buy a gun like this. 

 

     PARTICIPANT:  Mr. President.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  You’re right about that.  Yes, go ahead.

 

     PARTICIPANT:  Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary, thank you for having us.  I think what you’re hearing today is, there’s no lack of solutions.  I think what we’ve had today is a lack of leadership.  And I have confidence that you will bring out that leadership that we need to finally take the action that needs to be taken, because there’s not one solution; there’s many solutions.  And you’re hearing some of those here today to resolve this, to address this. 

 

Our schools are soft targets.  So we need to harden the targets by making — increasing our deterrence capabilities so that a potential murderer knows that that’s not going to happen; that there’s going to be people there ready to respond.  That the minute something happens, our technology will pick up that an incident has occurred, and there will be a response immediately.  And then also the children and the teachers know what to do in that instance — so if they’re communicated with effectively. 

 

What we need to identify is where are the mental issues among the student population.  The kids at the school knew this person.  They knew he was an issue.  The FBI knew, and I think we need to close some of these loopholes in the background check system where we’re not integrating effectively the mental health knowledge that exists at the state level, at the local level, into the federal background check system. 

 

     So, fix the NICS system.  And that’s an easy one.  So there’s a lot of immediate steps we can take right now; there’s some longer-term solution.  But I think we need to get started right away.  And I thank you for your help on this. 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, too.  And I will say, again, background checks are going to be very strong.  We need that.  And then after we do that, when we see there’s trouble, we have to nab them. 

 

     You know, years ago, we had mental hospitals — mental institutions.  We had a lot of them, and a lot of them have closed.  They’ve closed.  Some people thought it was a stigma.  Some people thought, frankly, it was a — the legislators thought it was too expensive. 

 

Today, if you catch somebody, they don’t know what to do with them.  He hasn’t committed the crime, but he may, very well.  And there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them.  And we have that a lot.  Even if they caught this person — I’m being nice when I use the word “person” — they probably wouldn’t have known what to do.  They’re not going to put them in jail.  And yet — so there’s none of that middle ground of having that institution, where you had trained people that could handle it and do something about it and find out how sick he really is.  Because he is a sick guy.  And he should have been nabbed a number of times, frankly.

 

     Your concept and your idea about — it’s called concealed carry — and it only works where you have people very adept at using firearms, of which you have many, and it would be teachers and coaches.  If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy — that coach was very brave.  Saved a lot of lives, I suspect.  But if he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run; he would have shot and that would have been the end of it. 

 

And this would only be, obviously, for people that are very adept at handling a gun.  And it would be — it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.  They’d go for special training.  And they would be there, and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.   A gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is, let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us.

 

     And if you do this — and a lot of people are talking about it, and it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss — but concealed carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent.  So let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force, because that’s pretty much the number — and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes.  It takes five to eight minutes for responders, for the police, to come in.  So the attack is over.  If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly. 

 

And the good thing about a suggestion like that — and we’re going to be looking at it very strongly, and I think a lot of people are going to be opposed to it; I think a lot of people are going to like it — but the good thing is that you’ll have a lot of people with that.  You know, you can’t have a hundred security guards in Stoneman Douglas.  That’s a big school.  That’s a massive school with a lot of acreage to cover, a lot of floor area. 

 

And so that would be, certainly, a situation that is being discussed a lot by a lot of people.  You’d have a lot people that’d be armed.  They’d be ready.  They’re professionals.  They may be Marines that left the Marines, left the Army, left the Air Force.  And they’re very adept at doing that.  You’d have a lot of them, and they’d be spread evenly throughout the school.

 

So the other thing — I really believe that if these cowards knew that the school was well-guarded, from the standpoint of having, pretty much, professionals with great training, I think they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with.  I think it could very well solve your problem.

 

So we’ll be doing the background checks.  We’ll be doing a lot of different things.  But we’ll certainly be looking at ideas like that. 

 

You know, a lot of people don’t understand that airline pilots now, a lot of them carry guns.  And I have to say that things have changed a lot.  People aren’t attacking the way they would routinely attack.  And maybe you have the same situation in schools.

 

So does anybody like that idea here?  Does anybody like it?  Right?  Yes.  For Meadow — your beautiful Meadow.  We talked about that.

 

And do people feel strongly against it?  Anybody?  Anybody?  Strongly against it?

 

All right.  I mean, I could — look, we can understand both sides.  And certainly, it’s controversial.  But we’ll study that along with many other ideas.

 

Anybody else something to say?  Yes, go ahead.

 

MR. SCOTT:  I’ve been in thousands of schools across America, and I’ve noticed in Israel they have one-guard entry points.  And it’s very well guarded. 

 

I’m not asking for us to (inaudible).  I’m not saying we should turn our schools into prisons.  But I’ve been in so many schools where I’m speaking in an auditorium, and I’ll go outside to call my wife or to just get a breath of fresh air, and it is so easy for me to get back into that school.  I’m an unknown adult to many of those students.  I can tap on a window, and they’ll open the door for me.  Or I can catch someone coming out the side door and easily get in.

 

So one of the things that I have thought a lot about in seeing this around the country is we have really soft entry points into schools.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s true.  That’s true.  And we can do something about that.

 

Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

 

MR. THOMPSON:  Good afternoon.  I’m Brandon Thompson.  First, my heart goes out to everyone who’s experiencing this tragedy right now.  I’m currently dean of students at Friendship Tech Prep, which is in the heart of Southeast D.C., which is in Ward 8, which is one of the most impoverished wards in D.C. 

 

However, at our school, just a solution, we actually have checkpoints.  When a student walks in the door, we actually have metal detectors.  And I oftentimes see that in urban education.  And we actually have an x-ray machine that students put their bags through.  And right after this incident happened, a parent who didn’t so much agree with it at first sent me an email saying, “Thank you.  Because now I see exactly what’s happening.”

 

And so we oftentimes use that TSA model.  When a student comes in, we have somebody at the door to greet them to do a check in just to see how they feel.  And we have certain point people, where I know this person is not feeling so well, so they won’t get past point one.  They go through the metal detector, their bag goes through the machine.  And so, at the end of the day, just talking to my students riding over today, they all say, “Well, I feel safe.”  And you come outside and you said talk about mental hospitals — our school is right across the street from a shutdown mental hospital. 

 

We have — you know, if you were to come over to the streets, you would be like, “Oh my God.”  But once you get inside the building, we have that family feel.  We have those check-in points.  We have it where every visitor that comes through our building has to go through these checkpoints to ensure that our students get home safe, to ensure that our staff members get home safe. 

 

And these are just minor solutions.  Like, I will say, I’m against having a teacher with a gun in the building.  Teachers are emotional.  People are emotional.  So I think that is a huge factor, however.  But having students — and you may have to go to staff members — going through these checkpoints to ensure that, one, their mental is on point; and two, that we’re talking about they don’t have any physical metal on them and/or — even our building, our students don’t even carry cell phones because we consider that’s a threat.  It’s taking away from them learning.  So they actually turn in their cell phones. 

 

And so those things of ensuring our kids are there at the moment, to live the moment, to enjoy school — they get that joy factor.  They get that family feel.  And they’re able, now, to connect with one another and able to communicate, and not have to worry about looking over their shoulder when they walk out and into the building.  Because they know every person that comes through the building has been through a metal check — their bags have been checked.

 

And so that’s just a solution.  Once again, my heart goes out to everyone who has been through this tragedy.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Very well said.  Very well said.  Yes.

 

MS. HOCKLEY:  Mr. President, thank you for being open to hearing all forms of solutions.  I truly appreciate that. 

 

One point on the mental health issue — and I think it’s important to note that someone with a mental illness is highly unlikely to ever commit an act of violence.  It’s a very, very small percentage.

 

What we’re really dealing here is more of the lack of mental wellness.  This is around anger and fear.  And that’s not something that you can diagnose and put in mental health hospitals.  This is more about funding for mental health services to help these individuals that are at risk, especially when we think about suicide, teen suicide.  Suicide is the number two killer of our children as I understand right now.  And a lot of these suicides are performed with firearms, which makes them unsaveable.      

 

So the idea of mental health and being able to identify who’s at risk, who’s considering these issues, who’s going into crisis, that is incredibly important.

 

I appreciate the point on arming teachers.  It’s not, personally, something that I support.  Rather than arm them with a firearm, I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place.  How do you identify the kids in your class that are most at risk?  And then, most importantly within a school, how do we have a safety assessment program so that schools know how to deal with all these threats; have established protocols to deal with them, and get underneath the surface of what’s going on in that child’s life; find out why they’re on this pathway behavior and intervene?

 

This is about prevention.  There are some fabulous solutions being talked about today, which still go to imminent danger.  Let’s talk about prevention.  There is so much that we can do to help people before it reaches that point.  And I urge you, please, stay focused on that as well.  It is the gun, it’s the person behind the gun, and it’s about helping people before they ever reach that point.

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, go ahead.  Thank you.

 

MR. ZEIF:  So I fully respect all of our amendments, including the Second.  But in Maryland, they have proven that the Second Amendment does not protect these types of weapons.  They have banned over 45 different kinds of assault weapons, including the AR.  Including the AR.  They have banned — they have limited magazine sizes. 

 

They have proven that it’s not like we have to lose our Second Amendment.  You know, these — the Second Amendment, I believe, was for defense, and I fully respect that, like I said.  But these are not weapons of defense; these are weapons of war.  And I just — I still can’t fathom that I, myself, am able to purchase one.

 

Anyone?

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

 

MR. HUNTER POLLACK:  I would like to talk, Mr. President.  I couldn’t agree — I’m not here to debate, but I lost my sister.  And like Mr. President said, if you could find 20 percent of maybe retired law enforcement officers or teachers that could go through discreet training to carry a firearm on his waist, it could have been a very different situation. 

 

Like he said, law enforcement, it takes them seven minutes, eight minutes, to get there.  If a teacher or a security guard has a concealed license and the firearm on their waist, they’re able to easily stop the situation, or the bad guy — I’ll but it that way — would not even go near the school knowing that someone can fight back against them.       

 

Also, I believe that is insanity that they would even open the gates up 20 minutes before school ends.  They’re supposed to protect us and the children.  So in the future, we need more security, we need more firearms on campus, we need better background checks, and we need to study more on mental health. 

 

And I want to thank everyone for their condolences.  And that’s my only argument.  Thank you.

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you. 

 

Yes, go ahead.

 

MR. LAWRENCE:  Well, thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary for having us here.  My deepest condolences for those who have — deepest condolences for those who have lost family and friends. 

 

My name is Curtis Lawrence.  I’m the principal at Friendship Collegiate Academy.  And like Mr. Brandon had said, we have security and we also have MPD on staff that we hired to make sure that things aren’t coming into our school, and also, immediately in the mornings and during dismissal, immediately around the school to protect our kids as they leave. 

 

But last month, we did suffer a loss.  One of our ninth graders was gunned down walking distance from the school.  And so when we talk about safe passage, I think in looking at what’s happening with gun violence, with our scholars and with our students, I’m saying take a double approach, right?  You have to protect kids that are in schools.

 

All right, so as a President you have different laws in different states, and so definitely where they don’t have the necessary security as we may have with getting in, then we have to think of what are those solutions for the kids in Florida that are going to those schools with that to make sure that they’re safe in school.  And then in places like here in D.C., what are those solutions to make sure kids are able to get home and to school safety? 

 

So I think it’s a two-prong approach and I know you have a specific position to — as you meet with the governors, and they have their different laws and coming from these different perspectives to make them own that two-prong approach to protect them in school and protect as well out of school, going back and forth. 

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

 

MR. BARDEN:  Mr. President, thank you so much, and thank you, Vice President and Madam Secretary, for convening this and for allowing us all the opportunity to speak about this very serious problem. 

 

And my heart absolutely breaks for the families of Parkland.  I have a sense of what you’re going through now.  I have been going through it for five years.  This is my son Daniel.  He was seven years old when he was shot to death in his first-grade classroom in Sandy Hook Elementary School just a little over five years ago.

 

My wife, Jackie, could not be here today because she’s a schoolteacher and she takes that job seriously, and sent me as the ambassador.  Jackie is a career educator and she will tell you — she has spent over a decade in the Bronx — and she will tell you that schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life.  (Applause.)  Thank you. 

 

Nobody wants to see a shootout in a school and a deranged sociopath on his way to commit an act of murder in a school with the outcome — knowing the outcome is going to be suicide, he’s not going to care if there’s somebody there with a gun.  That’s their plan anyway. 

 

I am going to build on what my friend and colleague, Nicole Hockley, said.  We tried this legislative approach.  I’ve been in this building before, many times, wringing our hands, pleading with legislators, “What can we do?”  Until we finally said, well, we have to go home and do this ourselves.

 

And we built something.  Sandy Hook Promise has built something that works.  We train students and we train teachers and we train educators with the tools, how to recognize these people, and with the tools of how to intervene, and with the tools to get them to the help that they need before they pick up a gun or any other weapon and commit a horrible tragedy.  It works.  We don’t charge for it.  We’re not asking for money. 

 

We’ve already stopped school shootings.  We’ve already prevented suicides.  We’ve already captured other social issues like bullying and cutting.  We know that it works.  We have a solution right here.  We’re asking for you to please help.  We need to do this nationally, now.  Thank you. 

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mark.  Thank you.

 

SECRETARY DEVOS:  Mr. President. 

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

 

SECRETARY DEVOS:  I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you and the Vice President, and to thank everyone here for joining us today, for telling your stories, for sharing your perspectives.  And please know that this is the beginning of a long conversation.  We are committed to seeing a solution to this very, very tragic and horrible situation.  And so, know that our hearts will continue to be with all of the families affected here. 

And thank you again for being with us today.

    

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Betsy, and thank you, Mike, and thank you everybody for being with us.  We’re going to work very hard.  It’s very difficult, it’s very complex, but we’re going to find a solution.  We have been looking at this issue for a long time — too long as far as I’m concerned.  And you’ll be back — you’ll be back in a much more positive light.  We will get there. 

 

If you have any suggestions, if you have any feelings as to what we should do — because there are many different ideas — some, I guess, are good.  Some aren’t good.  Some are very stringent, as you understand.  And a lot of people think they work.  And some are less so.     

 

But in addition to everything else, and in addition to what we’re going to do about background checks — we’re going to go very strongly to age, that’s age of purchase, and we’re also going to go very strongly to the mental health aspect of what’s going on.  Because here was a case where he cried out — this person was sick, very sick.  And people knew he was very sick. 

 

And I know law enforcement is also — I really learned a lot from this — we’re also going to look at the institutions.  We’re going to look at what to do when you find somebody like this — because again, right now we’re not equipped like we were many years ago.  So we’re going to look at that whole aspect of what’s going on. 

 

I want to thank everybody.  I know you’ve been through a lot.  Most of you have been through a lot — more than you ever thought possible.  More than you ever thought humanly possible.  And all I can say is that we’re fighting hard for you, and we will not stop.  We will not stop.  We’re going to get there.  And I just grieve for you.  I feel so — it’s just, to me, there could be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through.

 

Again, thank you for your ideas.  Thank you for your thoughts.  Thank you for pouring out your hearts, because the world is watching.  And we’re going to come up with a solution.

 

God bless you all.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

 

                                           END                

Trump Demands Probe of Obama Response to Russia Election Meddling

President Donald Trump on Wednesday again questioned why, if Russia was interfering in the 2016 U.S. election, former President Barack Obama and his administration did little to thwart it and why they are not now being investigated.

Trump virtually demanded his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, undertake an investigation of Obama and officials in that administration.

It has been a recurring theme for Trump in recent days: casting aspersions on several months-long investigations of his campaign’s links to Russian interests during the run-up to the November 2016 election and afterward, and attempting to divert attention to the Obama administration that was in office ahead of the vote and for weeks after it.

Trump’s admonishment of Sessions also showed the president’s continuing upset that the attorney general removed himself from oversight of the Russia probe because of his own 2016 contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington, eventually leading to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to head the ongoing criminal investigation.

Trump’s comments came in the aftermath of Mueller filing charges last week against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities for allegedly conducting an “information warfare” campaign against the U.S. with fake stories and commentary about divisive U.S. issues in an effort to help Trump defeat Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.

Trump has only reluctantly supported the finding of the U.S. intelligence community, and now Mueller, that Russia carried out a campaign to help him win the White House. He has not condemned Moscow for its 2016 election interference and, according to his intelligence chiefs’ congressional testimony last week, has not directed them to take any action to thwart Russian interference in the U.S. congressional elections set for November.

Trump has so far declined to impose sanctions on Russia for its election interference that were overwhelmingly approved by Congress and sought to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A month ahead of the 2016 election, the U.S. intelligence community voiced concern about the Russian interference. At that point, Obama wanted to issue a bipartisan statement about the Russian meddling, but was rebuffed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

After the election, in the last weeks of his presidency, Obama issued sanctions against nine Russian individuals and entities for election meddling. Obama also expelled 35 Russian government officials and ordered two waterfront compounds closed that the U.S. said the Russians were using for intelligence-gathering operations.

Trump praised Putin when the Russian leader subsequently ordered the dismissal of 755 workers at U.S. outposts in Russia, many of them Russians. Trump said it would help the U.S. save money with a diminished payroll in Russia.

Earlier this week, Trump said Obama failed to act against Russian meddling because he thought Clinton would win.

In another tweet, Trump said, “I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts. Total Fake News!” He praised his favorite television show, Fox and Friends for laying out a timeline he said showed “all of the failures of the Obama Administration” in combating Russian military involvement in Syria and its takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Trump Demands Probe of Obama Response to Russia Election Meddling

President Donald Trump on Wednesday again questioned why, if Russia was interfering in the 2016 U.S. election, former President Barack Obama and his administration did little to thwart it and why they are not now being investigated.

Trump virtually demanded his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, undertake an investigation of Obama and officials in that administration.

It has been a recurring theme for Trump in recent days: casting aspersions on several months-long investigations of his campaign’s links to Russian interests during the run-up to the November 2016 election and afterward, and attempting to divert attention to the Obama administration that was in office ahead of the vote and for weeks after it.

Trump’s admonishment of Sessions also showed the president’s continuing upset that the attorney general removed himself from oversight of the Russia probe because of his own 2016 contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington, eventually leading to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to head the ongoing criminal investigation.

Trump’s comments came in the aftermath of Mueller filing charges last week against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities for allegedly conducting an “information warfare” campaign against the U.S. with fake stories and commentary about divisive U.S. issues in an effort to help Trump defeat Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.

Trump has only reluctantly supported the finding of the U.S. intelligence community, and now Mueller, that Russia carried out a campaign to help him win the White House. He has not condemned Moscow for its 2016 election interference and, according to his intelligence chiefs’ congressional testimony last week, has not directed them to take any action to thwart Russian interference in the U.S. congressional elections set for November.

Trump has so far declined to impose sanctions on Russia for its election interference that were overwhelmingly approved by Congress and sought to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A month ahead of the 2016 election, the U.S. intelligence community voiced concern about the Russian interference. At that point, Obama wanted to issue a bipartisan statement about the Russian meddling, but was rebuffed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

After the election, in the last weeks of his presidency, Obama issued sanctions against nine Russian individuals and entities for election meddling. Obama also expelled 35 Russian government officials and ordered two waterfront compounds closed that the U.S. said the Russians were using for intelligence-gathering operations.

Trump praised Putin when the Russian leader subsequently ordered the dismissal of 755 workers at U.S. outposts in Russia, many of them Russians. Trump said it would help the U.S. save money with a diminished payroll in Russia.

Earlier this week, Trump said Obama failed to act against Russian meddling because he thought Clinton would win.

In another tweet, Trump said, “I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts. Total Fake News!” He praised his favorite television show, Fox and Friends for laying out a timeline he said showed “all of the failures of the Obama Administration” in combating Russian military involvement in Syria and its takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Florida School Shooting Survivors Are Not ‘Crisis Actors’

Two students who survived the Florida school shooting and spoke publicly about it are not “crisis actors,” despite the claims of several conspiracy-oriented sites and an aide to a Florida lawmaker.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, are among those targeted by conspiracy theories about the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people.

Similar hoaxes were spread online following other mass shootings, including the 2012 assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

In Florida, an aide to a state representative on Tuesday emailed a Tampa Bay Times reporter a screenshot of them being interviewed on CNN and said, “Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.”

Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told the Times that the legislative aide’s comments were “outrageous and disrespectful.”

“These are absolutely students at Stoneman Douglas. They’ve been there. I can verify that,” Runcie told the newspaper.

The aide, Benjamin Kelly, sent a second email to Times reporter Alex Leary with a link to a conspiracy video saying, “There is a clip on you tube that shows Mr. Hogg out in California. (I guess he transferred?)” In the clip, a news reporter interviewed Hogg while on vacation in 2017 in Redondo Beach as a witness to a friend’s confrontation with a lifeguard. On Wednesday, YouTube had replaced one link to a video about Hogg as an actor with a notice saying it violated the site’s policy on harassment and bullying, but other videos remained.

Kelly tweeted later Tuesday that his comments were a mistake. The speaker of the Florida House, who oversees all House employees, subsequently fired him.

Runcie called such attacks “part of what’s wrong with the narrative in this country. If someone just has a different type of opinion, it seems that we want to somehow demonize them or color them as being somehow illegitimate instead of listening. . We’ll never get beyond that if, as soon as you show up, you’re demonized.”

Hogg also responded to the erroneous claims, telling CNN, “I am not a crisis actor. I’m somebody that had to witness this and live through this and I continue to have to do that.”

WH: New Security Clearance Policy Will Not Affect Kushner’s Work

The White House says new restrictions on top security clearances set to go into effect Friday will not affect the work of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law has been operating for more than a year with an interim clearance, and his position has given him access to some of the most sensitive information, including the president’s daily security briefing.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced last week the new policy that would strip interim clearances from those who currently have access at the top levels of the security classification system.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday the change will not impact Kushner’s work.

“Nothing that has taken place will affect the valuable work that Jared is doing. He continues, and will continue, to be a valued member of the team,” Sanders said.

Kushner’s duties have been wide-ranging, from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to making the federal government run more efficiently, as well as work on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Kelly said in a statement.

U.S. government employees must submit a form extensively detailing background information such as prior jobs and addresses, relatives, foreign contacts, foreign business activities and criminal record. The information is the basis for investigators to determine whether the person should be trusted to receive any relevant security clearances.

Kushner has amended his submission multiple times, delaying his clearance process.

When asked if Trump would use his executive authority to grant Kushner a clearance, Sanders said Tuesday she had not spoken with the president “about whether or not that would be necessary.”

The new White House policy is set to affect several dozen employees, according to administration officials, though most do not need the top level clearances to do their jobs.

Trump Orders Justice Department to Ban Bump Stocks

The U.S. administration is looking to tighten some regulations involving guns, with President Donald Trump formally recommending the banning of devices that turn firearms into more lethal weapons.

The White House is also saying age restrictions are on the table for the most popular semi-automatic rifle in the country. The administration indicated it is open to universal background checks for gun owners.

 

“Just a few moments ago, I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,”  Trump said Tuesday, adding that such regulations will be finalized “very soon.”

The president made the announcement from the White House during the Public Safety Medal of Valor Awards ceremony honoring law enforcement officers.

The ban would include bump stocks — attachments that allow semi-automatic guns to be fired faster — which were used in the shooting in Las Vegas Last October in which 58 people were killed and 851 wounded.

Text of the memo also includes criticism of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

“Although the Obama Administration repeatedly concluded that particular bump stock type devices were lawful to purchase and possess, I sought further clarification of the law restricting fully automatic machine guns,” Trump said in the document.

“Although I desire swift and decisive action, I remain committed to the rule of law and to the procedures the law prescribes,” the memo added. “Doing this the right way will ensure that the resulting regulation is workable and effective and leaves no loopholes for criminals to exploit.”

Tomorrow, the White House is hosting a “listening session” that is to include students, parents and teachers who have been victimized by mass shootings in America, Also participating in the session will be students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student last Wednesday killed 17 people, which Trump on Tuesday termed “an evil massacre.” 

The president, making his first extensive remarks since the Florida killings, declared “school safety is a top priority for my administration,” adding he will meet with state governors next week to discuss the topic.

“We’re working very hard to make sense of these events,” Trump said to law enforcement members and other first responders during the White House ceremony. “We’re going to come up with solutions. It’s been many, many years, and there have been no solutions.”

The Trump administration and lawmakers are facing a backlash — including from some of the student survivors of the latest school mass shooting — that they are too focused on the mental health of gunmen rather than the weapons they carry.

It has been noted by gun control advocates that many teenagers in America can legally purchase an AR-15 type assault weapon before they’re eligible to vote or drink alcohol. Twenty-eight of the 50 states have no minimum age requirement for owning a rifle.

“I think that’s certainly something that’s on the table for us to discuss and that we expect to come up over the next couple of weeks,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded at the first press daily briefing in a week, when asked if Trump believed there should be an age limit for the purchase of assault rifles like the one used in the Florida school shooting.

“The president has expressed his support for the efforts to improve the federal background check system, and in the coming days, we will continue to explore ways to ensure the safety and security of our schools,” added Sanders.

Millions of gun owners, who support the National Rifle Association and other organizations that fight against restrictions on such weapons, believe that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees unfettered access to guns.

In the 2016 elections, the NRA gave $54 million in political donations, much of that during the presidential race.

It is not unusual for some members of Congress to have individually received hundreds of thousands of dollars — even millions — from the NRA. While some Democrats are also recipients of the association’s money, the top benefactors currently are from Trump’s Republican Party.

Trump Orders Justice Department to Ban Bump Stocks

The U.S. administration is looking to tighten some regulations involving guns, with President Donald Trump formally recommending the banning of devices that turn firearms into more lethal weapons.

The White House is also saying age restrictions are on the table for the most popular semi-automatic rifle in the country. The administration indicated it is open to universal background checks for gun owners.

 

“Just a few moments ago, I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,”  Trump said Tuesday, adding that such regulations will be finalized “very soon.”

The president made the announcement from the White House during the Public Safety Medal of Valor Awards ceremony honoring law enforcement officers.

The ban would include bump stocks — attachments that allow semi-automatic guns to be fired faster — which were used in the shooting in Las Vegas Last October in which 58 people were killed and 851 wounded.

Text of the memo also includes criticism of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

“Although the Obama Administration repeatedly concluded that particular bump stock type devices were lawful to purchase and possess, I sought further clarification of the law restricting fully automatic machine guns,” Trump said in the document.

“Although I desire swift and decisive action, I remain committed to the rule of law and to the procedures the law prescribes,” the memo added. “Doing this the right way will ensure that the resulting regulation is workable and effective and leaves no loopholes for criminals to exploit.”

Tomorrow, the White House is hosting a “listening session” that is to include students, parents and teachers who have been victimized by mass shootings in America, Also participating in the session will be students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student last Wednesday killed 17 people, which Trump on Tuesday termed “an evil massacre.” 

The president, making his first extensive remarks since the Florida killings, declared “school safety is a top priority for my administration,” adding he will meet with state governors next week to discuss the topic.

“We’re working very hard to make sense of these events,” Trump said to law enforcement members and other first responders during the White House ceremony. “We’re going to come up with solutions. It’s been many, many years, and there have been no solutions.”

The Trump administration and lawmakers are facing a backlash — including from some of the student survivors of the latest school mass shooting — that they are too focused on the mental health of gunmen rather than the weapons they carry.

It has been noted by gun control advocates that many teenagers in America can legally purchase an AR-15 type assault weapon before they’re eligible to vote or drink alcohol. Twenty-eight of the 50 states have no minimum age requirement for owning a rifle.

“I think that’s certainly something that’s on the table for us to discuss and that we expect to come up over the next couple of weeks,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded at the first press daily briefing in a week, when asked if Trump believed there should be an age limit for the purchase of assault rifles like the one used in the Florida school shooting.

“The president has expressed his support for the efforts to improve the federal background check system, and in the coming days, we will continue to explore ways to ensure the safety and security of our schools,” added Sanders.

Millions of gun owners, who support the National Rifle Association and other organizations that fight against restrictions on such weapons, believe that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees unfettered access to guns.

In the 2016 elections, the NRA gave $54 million in political donations, much of that during the presidential race.

It is not unusual for some members of Congress to have individually received hundreds of thousands of dollars — even millions — from the NRA. While some Democrats are also recipients of the association’s money, the top benefactors currently are from Trump’s Republican Party.

Florida Lawmakers Reject Ban on Assault Rifles

Florida high school students say they will not let state lawmakers’ rejection of a bill to ban assault rifles stop them from taking their fight to the state capital.

 

With the gallery filled with students Tuesday, the Republican-led Florida House turned down a Democratic proposal to ban the guns. Republicans accused the Democrats of forcing the issue after Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly used an AR-15 to kill 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school last week.

Lizzie Eaton, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the shootings, called the legislature’s vote “heartbreaking.” But she said, “We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep fighting for what we believe in. We’re not going to let this bring us down.”

About 100 other Parkland students are expected in Tallahassee on Wednesday, and President Donald Trump will host parents, teachers and students that day for what the White House calls a “listening session” on school safety.

WATCH: Florida High School Students Board Bus to Tallahassee

Survivors from the shootings at Parkland; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012; and Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, in April 1999 have been invited.

Students from Florida and across the country have expressed anger, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, at what they see as politicians’ failure to take steps to stop mass shootings.

Before boarding their bus for Tallahassee, Douglas student Ariana Ortega told VOA that the students “are the ones most involved in this. We are the ones who lived through this whole tragic experience, and we are going to be the future leaders of America.”

WATCH: Inside the Bus to Tallahassee

Students are planning a March 24 rally in Washington and other major cities called “March for Our Lives.” Music stars Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Cher have thrown their support behind the march. Actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, a human rights attorney, said they are donating $500,000 to help pay for it.

“Our family will be there on March 24 to stand side by side with this incredible generation of young people from all over the country,” Clooney said.

Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried Tuesday to smooth over the fallout from Trump’s controversial tweet Saturday about the FBI, in which he said agents missed signs about the Parkland shooter because it was busy trying to look for election interference collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia.

Sanders said a “deranged individual” was the cause of the killings.

The FBI admitted it did not act on a January 5 tip about Cruz. According to an FBI statement, someone with a close relationship to Cruz called with information about his “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

Police said Cruz confessed to killing 14 students and three adults at the high school he was expelled from last year. He was able to buy an AR-15 rifle after clearing a background check. 

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll said 86 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Florida shooting, while 67 percent of Republicans said stricter laws could not have prevented the massacre.

More than three-quarters of both groups, however, said more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the attack.

Overall, 77 percent of respondents said Congress was not doing enough to prevent mass shootings in the United States, while 62 percent said Trump was not doing enough.

In Washington, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn and Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy have drafted legislation to improve compliance with background checks. The revisions are still being negotiated.

The Cornyn-Murphy legislation has drawn support from Democrats and Republicans, although passage of gun legislation has often stalled in Congress. Democratic lawmakers often call for tighter controls on gun purchases, while Republicans often oppose them, saying they would violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sanctioning gun ownership.

The Cornyn-Murphy background check measure would not impose new restrictions on gun purchases, but rather attempt to make sure information about mental health and criminal conviction records that legally bar individuals from buying weapons is consistently sent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

U.S. authorities have frequently learned in the aftermath of a shooting rampage that the shooter should not have been allowed to buy a weapon because of mental health issues or a criminal conviction, but the information was never forwarded to the national database.

Florida Lawmakers Reject Ban on Assault Rifles

Florida high school students say they will not let state lawmakers’ rejection of a bill to ban assault rifles stop them from taking their fight to the state capital.

 

With the gallery filled with students Tuesday, the Republican-led Florida House turned down a Democratic proposal to ban the guns. Republicans accused the Democrats of forcing the issue after Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly used an AR-15 to kill 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school last week.

Lizzie Eaton, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the shootings, called the legislature’s vote “heartbreaking.” But she said, “We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep fighting for what we believe in. We’re not going to let this bring us down.”

About 100 other Parkland students are expected in Tallahassee on Wednesday, and President Donald Trump will host parents, teachers and students that day for what the White House calls a “listening session” on school safety.

WATCH: Florida High School Students Board Bus to Tallahassee

Survivors from the shootings at Parkland; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012; and Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, in April 1999 have been invited.

Students from Florida and across the country have expressed anger, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, at what they see as politicians’ failure to take steps to stop mass shootings.

Before boarding their bus for Tallahassee, Douglas student Ariana Ortega told VOA that the students “are the ones most involved in this. We are the ones who lived through this whole tragic experience, and we are going to be the future leaders of America.”

WATCH: Inside the Bus to Tallahassee

Students are planning a March 24 rally in Washington and other major cities called “March for Our Lives.” Music stars Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Cher have thrown their support behind the march. Actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, a human rights attorney, said they are donating $500,000 to help pay for it.

“Our family will be there on March 24 to stand side by side with this incredible generation of young people from all over the country,” Clooney said.

Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried Tuesday to smooth over the fallout from Trump’s controversial tweet Saturday about the FBI, in which he said agents missed signs about the Parkland shooter because it was busy trying to look for election interference collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia.

Sanders said a “deranged individual” was the cause of the killings.

The FBI admitted it did not act on a January 5 tip about Cruz. According to an FBI statement, someone with a close relationship to Cruz called with information about his “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

Police said Cruz confessed to killing 14 students and three adults at the high school he was expelled from last year. He was able to buy an AR-15 rifle after clearing a background check. 

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll said 86 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Florida shooting, while 67 percent of Republicans said stricter laws could not have prevented the massacre.

More than three-quarters of both groups, however, said more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the attack.

Overall, 77 percent of respondents said Congress was not doing enough to prevent mass shootings in the United States, while 62 percent said Trump was not doing enough.

In Washington, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn and Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy have drafted legislation to improve compliance with background checks. The revisions are still being negotiated.

The Cornyn-Murphy legislation has drawn support from Democrats and Republicans, although passage of gun legislation has often stalled in Congress. Democratic lawmakers often call for tighter controls on gun purchases, while Republicans often oppose them, saying they would violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sanctioning gun ownership.

The Cornyn-Murphy background check measure would not impose new restrictions on gun purchases, but rather attempt to make sure information about mental health and criminal conviction records that legally bar individuals from buying weapons is consistently sent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

U.S. authorities have frequently learned in the aftermath of a shooting rampage that the shooter should not have been allowed to buy a weapon because of mental health issues or a criminal conviction, but the information was never forwarded to the national database.

Trump Denounces Women Who Accused Him of Sex Abuse

U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday denounced Rachel Crooks, one of 19 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, and the Washington Post, for publishing an article about her allegations.

The Post story offers her detailed account of how Trump allegedly forcibly kissed the then 22-year-old on January 11, 2006 while the two were waiting for an elevator in Trump Tower in New York. The article also describes how nothing has come of the allegations from her and the other women, despite repeating her story, which she first described to The New York Times several months prior to the 2016 presidential election.

Like other allegations, Trump has denied them — as he did Tuesday on Twitter.

“A woman I don’t know and, to the best of my knowledge, never met, is on the FRONT PAGE of the Fake News Washington Post saying I kissed her (for two minutes yet) in the lobby of Trump Tower 12 years ago. Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security……

 

…cameras running. Another False Accusation. Why doesn’t @washingtonpost report the story of the women taking money to make up stories about me? One had her home mortgage paid off. Only @FoxNews so reported …doesn’t fit the Mainstream Media narrative.”

In response to the Republican president’s tweets, Crooks, who is running as a Democrat for a seat in the Ohio State House of Representatives, challenged Trump to release video of their alleged encounter.

“Please, by all means, share the footage from the hallway outside the 24th floor residential elevator bank on the morning of January 11, 2006. Let’s clear this up for everyone. It’s liars like you in politics that have prompted me to run for office myself.”

Most of the sex abuse accusations from the other women were made after Trump began campaigning for president in 2015, describing experiences spanning five decades.

Trump has consistently denied the allegations, calling them “total fabrications” and tweeting once that “Nobody has more respect for women than me.”

 

Trump Again Blames Obama for Russia Meddling Response

U.S. President Donald Trump is again blaming former President Barack Obama for mishandling Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?” Trump said on Twitter Monday. The attack on his predecessor was the latest in a series of presidential tweets.

It’s been a common complaint from Trump, who has alternately downplayed the extent of Russian interference and blamed his predecessor for failing to stop it.

In December 2016, Obama issued sanctions against nine Russian individuals and entities for election meddling and harassing U.S. diplomats in Moscow, including Russia’s GRU and FSB intelligence services. Obama also ordered 35 Russian government officials in Washington and San Francisco to leave the country for “acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status and consular activities” and ordered the closure of two waterfront compounds the administration said were used for Russian intelligence activities.

Earlier Monday, the Kremlin denied involvement in election meddling. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the allegations are baseless. 

The comments come days after U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with conducting an illegal “information warfare” campaign to disrupt the election to benefit Trump.

Mueller’s indictment of the Russian interests contended that the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based social media company with Kremlin ties, 12 of its employees, and its financial backer orchestrated the effort.

The 37-page charging document alleges the Russian conspirators sought to coordinate their effort with Trump campaign associates, but it does not accuse anyone on the Trump campaign of colluding with the Russians.

Trump has long insisted his campaign did not collude with Russia, even as the U.S. intelligence community, and now Mueller, have concluded that Russia conducted a wide campaign to meddle in the election to help Trump win.

The indictment marks the first time Mueller’s office has brought charges against Russians and Russian entities. 

Mueller’s sprawling investigation has led to the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates on money laundering charges in connection with their lobbying efforts in Ukraine that predates Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Former National Security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russian officials and are cooperating with Mueller’s probe.

In addition to investigating Russian meddling in the election, Mueller is probing whether Trump has in several ways obstructed justice to undermine the investigation, including his firing of former FBI director James Comey, who was leading the agency’s Russia probe at the time Trump ousted him. Mueller, over Trump’s objections, was then appointed to take over the Russia probe.

Trump Again Blames Obama for Russia Meddling Response

U.S. President Donald Trump is again blaming former President Barack Obama for mishandling Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?” Trump said on Twitter Monday. The attack on his predecessor was the latest in a series of presidential tweets.

It’s been a common complaint from Trump, who has alternately downplayed the extent of Russian interference and blamed his predecessor for failing to stop it.

In December 2016, Obama issued sanctions against nine Russian individuals and entities for election meddling and harassing U.S. diplomats in Moscow, including Russia’s GRU and FSB intelligence services. Obama also ordered 35 Russian government officials in Washington and San Francisco to leave the country for “acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status and consular activities” and ordered the closure of two waterfront compounds the administration said were used for Russian intelligence activities.

Earlier Monday, the Kremlin denied involvement in election meddling. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the allegations are baseless. 

The comments come days after U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with conducting an illegal “information warfare” campaign to disrupt the election to benefit Trump.

Mueller’s indictment of the Russian interests contended that the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based social media company with Kremlin ties, 12 of its employees, and its financial backer orchestrated the effort.

The 37-page charging document alleges the Russian conspirators sought to coordinate their effort with Trump campaign associates, but it does not accuse anyone on the Trump campaign of colluding with the Russians.

Trump has long insisted his campaign did not collude with Russia, even as the U.S. intelligence community, and now Mueller, have concluded that Russia conducted a wide campaign to meddle in the election to help Trump win.

The indictment marks the first time Mueller’s office has brought charges against Russians and Russian entities. 

Mueller’s sprawling investigation has led to the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates on money laundering charges in connection with their lobbying efforts in Ukraine that predates Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Former National Security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russian officials and are cooperating with Mueller’s probe.

In addition to investigating Russian meddling in the election, Mueller is probing whether Trump has in several ways obstructed justice to undermine the investigation, including his firing of former FBI director James Comey, who was leading the agency’s Russia probe at the time Trump ousted him. Mueller, over Trump’s objections, was then appointed to take over the Russia probe.

Trump Endorses Romney in Run for US Senate Seat in Utah

President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s run for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah, despite Romney often being critical of Trump.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney excoriated Trump as a “fraud” who was “playing the American public for suckers.” Trump responded that Romney had “choked like a dog” in his 2012 campaign against President Barack Obama.

Trump said on Twitter that Romney “will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!” Romney announced Friday he would run to replace retiring Senator Orrin Hatch.

Romney thanked Trump for the endorsement in a Tweet posted soon after the president’s statement.

“I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah,” Romney said.

Despite Romney’s prior criticism, after Trump won the presidency in November 2016, he briefly considered picking Romney as secretary of state.

Republicans hold 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats but many legislative issues require getting the support of 60 senators.

Trump has repeatedly said that he needs more Republicans elected during the 2018 congressional elections to win approval of more of his agenda.

Romney said last week he generally approved of Trump’s agenda, but would not hesitate to call out the president if needed.

“I’m with the president’s domestic policy agenda of low taxes, low regulation, smaller government, pushing back against the bureaucrats,” Romney said. “I’m not always with the president on what he might say or do, and if that happens I’ll call’em like I see’em, the way I have in the past.”

Trump had lobbied Hatch to run for re-election in 2018, in what was viewed as an effort to prevent Romney from getting into the Senate. Trump and Romney spoke in January after Hatch announced his retirement, a White House official said.

Romney, the son of former Michigan Governor George Romney, helped found the buyout firm Bain Capital and gained prominence after stepping in to lead the organizing committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal. He served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

Romney first sought the presidency in 2008 but lost the Republican nomination to Arizona Senator John McCain. Four years later, Romney won the party’s nomination but was defeated by incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama.

Trump Endorses Romney in Run for US Senate Seat in Utah

President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s run for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah, despite Romney often being critical of Trump.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney excoriated Trump as a “fraud” who was “playing the American public for suckers.” Trump responded that Romney had “choked like a dog” in his 2012 campaign against President Barack Obama.

Trump said on Twitter that Romney “will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!” Romney announced Friday he would run to replace retiring Senator Orrin Hatch.

Romney thanked Trump for the endorsement in a Tweet posted soon after the president’s statement.

“I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah,” Romney said.

Despite Romney’s prior criticism, after Trump won the presidency in November 2016, he briefly considered picking Romney as secretary of state.

Republicans hold 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats but many legislative issues require getting the support of 60 senators.

Trump has repeatedly said that he needs more Republicans elected during the 2018 congressional elections to win approval of more of his agenda.

Romney said last week he generally approved of Trump’s agenda, but would not hesitate to call out the president if needed.

“I’m with the president’s domestic policy agenda of low taxes, low regulation, smaller government, pushing back against the bureaucrats,” Romney said. “I’m not always with the president on what he might say or do, and if that happens I’ll call’em like I see’em, the way I have in the past.”

Trump had lobbied Hatch to run for re-election in 2018, in what was viewed as an effort to prevent Romney from getting into the Senate. Trump and Romney spoke in January after Hatch announced his retirement, a White House official said.

Romney, the son of former Michigan Governor George Romney, helped found the buyout firm Bain Capital and gained prominence after stepping in to lead the organizing committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal. He served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

Romney first sought the presidency in 2008 but lost the Republican nomination to Arizona Senator John McCain. Four years later, Romney won the party’s nomination but was defeated by incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama.

Healthiest Presidents Ever? New Compilation Doesn’t Place Trump Among Fittest  

Despite Donald Trump’s recent official clean bill of health and an assertion from his personal physician that he would be the “healthiest president ever,” the current officeholder ranks 26 out of 44 U.S. presidents, according to a new assessment released to coincide with Presidents Day. 

At the top of the list of the overall health rankings is Rutherford B. Hayes, president from 1877 to 1881, who “had a healthy diet, was not obese and abstained from any tobacco use or alcohol abuse,” according to the report, published on a website that provides consumers with information about Medicare supplemental insurance policies. 

Runner-up is Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who left office at the relatively young age of 55. But Obama’s base score was lower than Hayes’ because of Obama’s “smoking and poor sleep habits,” according to the ranking.

Obama and Trump are the only two presidents “to not lose a point for health issues,” but the intensively competitive Trump may be chagrined to know he merits only a “C” compared to Obama’s “A” health grade. 

“I think he should probably accept that with good grace,” Iowa State University history professor Stacy Cordery told VOA News.

“Former President Obama was significantly younger than President Trump when he took office. Even though President Obama smoked for a big part of his life and President Trump does not, Obama is much more physically active.” 

Trump also totally abstains from alcohol, while his meal choices have been known to lean toward fast-food fare. 

Cordery says “any armchair physician” can observe Trump’s borderline obesity and his high stress level in a White House deemed chaotic. 

Only two presidents received an “F” health grade: William Taft (who tipped the scales at around 155 kilograms or  341 pounds), and at the bottom of the list, Grover Cleveland, due to a “very unhealthy diet, a complete lack of physical exercise and a penchant for both tobacco and alcohol abuse.” 

Cleveland, regarded as the second-heaviest president and the only one to serve a pair of nonconsecutive terms, also covered up a surgery for oral cancer at the beginning of his second presidency. 

Somewhat surprisingly, William Henry Harrison, earned a B grade and is considered the 26th healthiest president, despite serving only 32 days in the White House. After delivering the longest inaugural address recorded — one hour and 45 minutes — on a bitterly cold morning of March 4, 1841, the new president immediately took to bed with a bad cold that developed into a fatal case of pneumonia.

“Harrison’s premature death is certainly notable and was very severe (he received a large13-point deduction in health score for his pneumonia and subsequent complications), but our rankings took into account other factors such as diet,” according to study organizer Ryan Shevin of TZ Health Media, a division of Tranzact, which funded the report.

Some medical professionals and others may question how it can be fair to compare early presidents to more recent leaders, considering the vast improvements in medicine (as well as the once swampy climes of malarial Washington, D.C.) since the early days of the United States.

Founding father George Washington suffered from a long list of ailments, including malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, dysentery, boils, tooth loss, hearing loss, infertility, tonsillitis complications, pneumonia, inflammation of the windpipe, throat infection and depression during illnesses.

“The overall quality of medicine/health care has clearly improved over time, but attempting to normalize or adjust for these differences would be a difficult task,” Shevin told VOA, explaining the study “chose a tally of health issues, rather than eliminating historically contextual illnesses such as smallpox.”

Relying on “bits and pieces in the archives” for most presidents “do not and cannot make a complete picture,” said Cordery, who has authored two books about President Theodore Roosevelt (who earns a “D” grade as the 36th healthiest president). “Anything like this where you’re trying to diagnose back in history is partly guesswork.”

The rankings were compiled after emailed answers were received from 27 presidential historians and doctors who were given general questions but not asked to rank the presidents, according to Shevin.

Tranzact researchers then considered a number of leading health indicators, including diet, exercise habits and sleep data, and tallied more than 58 health conditions that ultimately put Hayes on top and Cleveland at the bottom. 

While some may regard the rankings as subjective and thus open to argument, there is one common point of agreement among the historians and physicians: Being president of the United States is not good for one’s health.

Robert Watson, a professor of American studies at Lynn University, noted: “It is often said that a president ages at twice the normal rate while in office” due to holding “the most demanding office imaginable.” 

Healthiest Presidents Ever? New Compilation Doesn’t Place Trump Among Fittest  

Despite Donald Trump’s recent official clean bill of health and an assertion from his personal physician that he would be the “healthiest president ever,” the current officeholder ranks 26 out of 44 U.S. presidents, according to a new assessment released to coincide with Presidents Day. 

At the top of the list of the overall health rankings is Rutherford B. Hayes, president from 1877 to 1881, who “had a healthy diet, was not obese and abstained from any tobacco use or alcohol abuse,” according to the report, published on a website that provides consumers with information about Medicare supplemental insurance policies. 

Runner-up is Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who left office at the relatively young age of 55. But Obama’s base score was lower than Hayes’ because of Obama’s “smoking and poor sleep habits,” according to the ranking.

Obama and Trump are the only two presidents “to not lose a point for health issues,” but the intensively competitive Trump may be chagrined to know he merits only a “C” compared to Obama’s “A” health grade. 

“I think he should probably accept that with good grace,” Iowa State University history professor Stacy Cordery told VOA News.

“Former President Obama was significantly younger than President Trump when he took office. Even though President Obama smoked for a big part of his life and President Trump does not, Obama is much more physically active.” 

Trump also totally abstains from alcohol, while his meal choices have been known to lean toward fast-food fare. 

Cordery says “any armchair physician” can observe Trump’s borderline obesity and his high stress level in a White House deemed chaotic. 

Only two presidents received an “F” health grade: William Taft (who tipped the scales at around 155 kilograms or  341 pounds), and at the bottom of the list, Grover Cleveland, due to a “very unhealthy diet, a complete lack of physical exercise and a penchant for both tobacco and alcohol abuse.” 

Cleveland, regarded as the second-heaviest president and the only one to serve a pair of nonconsecutive terms, also covered up a surgery for oral cancer at the beginning of his second presidency. 

Somewhat surprisingly, William Henry Harrison, earned a B grade and is considered the 26th healthiest president, despite serving only 32 days in the White House. After delivering the longest inaugural address recorded — one hour and 45 minutes — on a bitterly cold morning of March 4, 1841, the new president immediately took to bed with a bad cold that developed into a fatal case of pneumonia.

“Harrison’s premature death is certainly notable and was very severe (he received a large13-point deduction in health score for his pneumonia and subsequent complications), but our rankings took into account other factors such as diet,” according to study organizer Ryan Shevin of TZ Health Media, a division of Tranzact, which funded the report.

Some medical professionals and others may question how it can be fair to compare early presidents to more recent leaders, considering the vast improvements in medicine (as well as the once swampy climes of malarial Washington, D.C.) since the early days of the United States.

Founding father George Washington suffered from a long list of ailments, including malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, dysentery, boils, tooth loss, hearing loss, infertility, tonsillitis complications, pneumonia, inflammation of the windpipe, throat infection and depression during illnesses.

“The overall quality of medicine/health care has clearly improved over time, but attempting to normalize or adjust for these differences would be a difficult task,” Shevin told VOA, explaining the study “chose a tally of health issues, rather than eliminating historically contextual illnesses such as smallpox.”

Relying on “bits and pieces in the archives” for most presidents “do not and cannot make a complete picture,” said Cordery, who has authored two books about President Theodore Roosevelt (who earns a “D” grade as the 36th healthiest president). “Anything like this where you’re trying to diagnose back in history is partly guesswork.”

The rankings were compiled after emailed answers were received from 27 presidential historians and doctors who were given general questions but not asked to rank the presidents, according to Shevin.

Tranzact researchers then considered a number of leading health indicators, including diet, exercise habits and sleep data, and tallied more than 58 health conditions that ultimately put Hayes on top and Cleveland at the bottom. 

While some may regard the rankings as subjective and thus open to argument, there is one common point of agreement among the historians and physicians: Being president of the United States is not good for one’s health.

Robert Watson, a professor of American studies at Lynn University, noted: “It is often said that a president ages at twice the normal rate while in office” due to holding “the most demanding office imaginable.” 

Trump Blasts Oprah Over 60 Minutes Episode

U.S. President Donald Trump blasted media mogul Oprah Winfrey on Twitter on Sunday night over a segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes program and again said he hoped she would face him as an opponent in the 2020 presidential race.

Actress and television host Winfrey, now a contributor to the CBS program, led a panel of 14 Republican, Democrat and Independent voters from Grand Rapids, Michigan in a wide ranging discussion about Trump’s first year in office.

Trump tweeted: “Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!”

Winfrey has told various media outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, that she is not running for president, but has considered it, after there was much recent media speculation.

The panelists ranged from voters who said “I love him more and more every day,” to others questioning Trump’s stability, saying, “All he does is bully people.”

Winfrey made no declarative statements for or against the president in the program. But she did ask questions ranging from whether the country is better off economically to whether respect for the country is eroding around the world.

Trump Blasts Oprah Over 60 Minutes Episode

U.S. President Donald Trump blasted media mogul Oprah Winfrey on Twitter on Sunday night over a segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes program and again said he hoped she would face him as an opponent in the 2020 presidential race.

Actress and television host Winfrey, now a contributor to the CBS program, led a panel of 14 Republican, Democrat and Independent voters from Grand Rapids, Michigan in a wide ranging discussion about Trump’s first year in office.

Trump tweeted: “Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!”

Winfrey has told various media outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, that she is not running for president, but has considered it, after there was much recent media speculation.

The panelists ranged from voters who said “I love him more and more every day,” to others questioning Trump’s stability, saying, “All he does is bully people.”

Winfrey made no declarative statements for or against the president in the program. But she did ask questions ranging from whether the country is better off economically to whether respect for the country is eroding around the world.