Trump Backs Off Some Gun Control Proposals He Recently Endorsed

by | March 12, 2018

By Anita Kumar and Franco Ordonez

The White House said Sunday that the federal government will help provide "rigorous firearms training" for qualified volunteer school personnel as part of a package of policy changes he will proposal after the mass shootings in Parkland, Fla.

President Donald Trump will call on states to pass measures allowing police to remove weapons or prevent gun sales for those who pose a threat. And Trump will ask Congress to pass the bills to increase the amount of records sent to the flawed National Instant Criminal Background Check System and to provide money to improve school security.

"There is no time to waste," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Sunday night. "No student. No family. No teacher and no school should have to live the horror of Parkland or Sandy Hook or Columbine again."

For the most part, though, Trump's much anticipated school safety program includes few immediate actions by his administration and none that are likely to be opposed by the National Rifle Association. Instead, he is relying on states and Congress to act.

Trump had several times endorsed increasing the minimum age for buying rifles or perhaps other guns from 18 to 21. Those proposals were not part of the package announced Sunday.

Instead, a new commission chaired by DeVos will review a dozen issues that could make schools safer, including raising the age to purchase a gun, expanding background checks and entertainment rating systems of violent entertainment.

"The president is determined to get to the root of the various societal issues that lead to violence in our country," said Andrew Bremberg, director of the Domestic Policy Council. "No stone will be left unturned."

No details were released on who would sit on the commission.

Trump has long criticized previous administrations for creating commissions to examine issues. "We can't just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees with your wife and your wife and your husband, and they meet and they have a meal and they talk," Trump said Saturday at a rally in Moon Township, Pa.

In some of Trump's earlier comments since the Parkland shootings, he appeared to support expanding the number of people buying guns who are required to undergo a background check, such as at gun shows or private sales. But White House spokesman Raj Shah said earlier Sunday that Trump would not advocate "universal" background checks.

The federal government will also conduct an audit of the FBI tip line after the agency did not follow protocol in how it handled two warnings about Nikolas Cruz, who is charged with killing 17 people in the Feb. 14 attack.

The administration will encourage state attorneys general to audit school district compliance with state emergency preparedness, and help states and localities support public awareness campaign modeled on "See Something, Say Something" to encourage awareness and reporting of suspicious activity.

"In the last few weeks, the president has insisted on one animating principal, to address national school safety," Bremberg said. "We must act. Not just engage in idle talk. But act in a way that are proven to be successful and will keep our children safe."

The White House released the proposals Sunday after Trump held a series of "listening sessions" students, parents and teachers affected by the shootings in Parkland, Newtown, Conn., and Columbine, Colo., and local and state officials and videogame-makers looking to establish policies to keep schools safe. He also met with the NRA.

The administration's proposals follow some of the principles signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott last week that would increase new mental health programs for schools and would allow school employees and many teachers to carry handguns if they take law enforcement training.

Trump previously signed a memorandum ordering Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prepare regulations to ban "bump stocks" and other devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into automatic weapons.

Republicans and Democrats had called for bump stocks to be regulated after the device was used by a shooter to kill 58 people at a music festival in Las Vegas in October. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives began reviewing the issue late last year.

No immediate action was taken. Some administration officials said they could not ban the sale of bump stocks without congressional action.

(c)2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau