WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s plan to combat school shootings will include helping states pay for firearms training for teachers and a call to improve the background check system.
But Trump’s plan will not include a push to increase the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons or an embrace of more comprehensive background checks, as Trump has at times advocated.
Instead, a new federal commission on school safety will examine the age issue, as well as a long list of others topics, as part of a longer-term look at school safety and violence.
In a call with reporters Sunday evening, administration officials described the plan as a fulfillment of Trump’s call for action in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and staff dead.
“Today we are announcing meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who will chair the commission.
DeVos said that “far too often, the focus” after such tragedies “has been only on the most contentious fights, the things that have divided people and sent them into their entrenched corners.” She described the plan as “pragmatic.”
As part of that plan, the White House has directed the Justice Department to help states partner with local law enforcement to provide “rigorous firearms training to specifically qualified volunteer school personnel,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of the president’s Domestic Policy Council.
Trump is calling on states to pass temporary, court-issued Risk Protection Orders, which allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals who pose risks to themselves and others, and temporarily prevent them from buying firearms.
The president is also calling for better coordination between mental health care, school officials and law enforcement. And he has called for a full audit and review of the FBI tip line.
In the weeks since the massacre, Trump has held listening sessions with lawmakers, survivors of recent school shootings and the families of victims. He’s also met and spoken with the heads of the powerful National Rifle Association. The NRA on Friday sued Florida over a new gun law signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott that bans the purchase of firearms by anyone under the age of 21.
White House spokesman Raj Shah had said earlier Sunday that “the president has been clear that he does support raising the age to 21.”
“I don’t want to get ahead of what’s going to be announced,” Shah said on “This Week” on ABC, “but I will say that will be a component of it, raising the age, as well as mental health.”
During those meetings, Trump advocated arming certain teachers and school staffers, arguing that gun-free schools are “like an invitation for these very sick people” to commit murder.
“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could end the attack very quickly,” he has said.
During the often free-wheeling conversations, Trump also seemed to voice support for “universal” background checks, which would apply to private gun sales and those at gun shows, instead of just from licensed dealers. He also raised eyebrows by suggesting that law enforcement officials should be able to confiscate guns from those they deem a safety risk even before a court has weighed in.
“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, later walked back both suggestions, saying “Universal means something different to a lot of people.” She said the president wanted to expedite the court process, not circumvent it.
As part of the plan, the White House reiterated its support for improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check through the “Fix NICS” bill, which would penalize federal agencies that don’t properly report required records and reward states that comply by providing them with federal grant preferences.
The bill was written in response to a shooting last November by a gunman whose domestic violence conviction the Air Force failed to report to the National Criminal Information Center database. It has already passed the House.
The White House is also calling on Congress to pass a second bill that would create a federal grant program to train students, teachers and school officials how to identify signs of potential violence and intervene early. The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on the STOP School Violence Act next week.
Trump has also vowed to ban the use of bump stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons. The Department of Justice has also been moving forward with that effort.