The White House announced support Sunday for firearms training for some teachers to protect schools, and has apparently backed off an earlier call by Donald Trump to raise the age individuals can purchase assault-style weapons from 18 to 21, The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reported.
The series of proposals generally fall in line with what the National Rifle Association supports in the wake of the massacre last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.
The nation’s largest teachers lobby, the National Education Association, is adamantly opposed to Trump and the NRA’s controversial initiative to arm teachers. An armed teacher in Georgia last month fired his handgun after he barricaded himself in a high school classroom, where he was eventually arrested by police. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre touted arming teachers just last month in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference. The White House plan would involve funding to provide weapons training for teachers.
Trump’s apparent reversal from proposing to raise the age young people can buy military assault-style weapons like the AR-15 that was used in the Parkland school shooting is a startling turnaround. It comes just weeks after he taunted legislators, saying that they were “afraid of the NRA,” while he was not. Trump specifically asked Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) if the senator had left raising the minimum age for gun purchases out of his bill strengthening background checks because senators “are afraid of the NRA.”
Last month Trump said in a meeting with legislators: “Now, this is not a popular thing to say, in terms of the NRA. But I’m saying it anyway. You can’t buy [a handgun until] until you’re 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18. I think it’s something you have to think about.”
On Friday, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott — a long-time NRA member — signed a bill into law raising the minimum age for all gun purchase from 18 to 21. But the NRA almost immediately sued to block the law and protect the “constitutional rights” of wanna-be gun buyers under the age of 21. The state’s controversial “guardian program” — opposed by the Florida Education Association — will allow some school employees and teachers to carry handguns with law enforcement training if a school district agrees to participate in the program.
The White House guns plan also includes support for a bill, known as the “Fix NICS” measure, designed to improve background checks for gun purchases. But it does not contain universal background checks, which would be far more effective.
“Fix NICS” is a bill sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by improving the flow of information into it from states and various federal agencies. But what it calls for is far less ambitious than universal background checks, which would include private sales, such as those that often occur at gun shows.
The White House announced that the president is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, to be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, that will explore possible solutions to school shootings. It may consider the age young people can purchase guns, the Post reported. But nothing in the current White House proposals addresses raising the minimum age for buyers.
DeVos called the proposals a “pragmatic plan” to increase school safety, the Post reported.
Several Democrats slammed the proposals. “This plan is weak on security and an insult to the victims of gun violence,” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said in a statement. “When it comes to keeping our families safe, it’s clear that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are all talk and no action.”