WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s plan to combat school shootings will include the creation of a new task force and an effort to “harden” schools so they’re less vulnerable to attacks, the White House said Sunday.
But it will not include a call on states to increase the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons, as Trump had previously advocated. Instead, that issue will be left to the task force to discuss, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the plan before they were released.
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.”
The long-awaited recommendations are expected to be laid out in more detail by the White House on Sunday evening, nearly a month after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and staff dead.
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.
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.
The idea, which was panned by Democrats and teachers’ unions, but is popular with gun advocates, is expected to be included in the plan.
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.
Shah said Trump would be reiterating his call 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 also supports 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.
“There’s going to be a series of proposals,” Shah said. “Some will be legislative, some will be administrative and some will be recommendations for states as well as a task force to study this issue in more depth and make more additional policy recommendations. So it’s going to be consistent with what the president has talked about.”
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