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Trump focuses on arming teachers, backs off raising the age for guns

Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump is pushing forward with a plan to arm more teachers and improve background checks, but has retreated from his promise to raise the age limit on gun purchases, a move many see as caving to the National Rifle Association.

Trump wrote Monday on Twitter that there is "not much political support (to put it mildly)" for raising the age limit from 18 to 21 to purchase powerful rifles like the one used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.

During a meeting with six students and families from the Florida high school in the White House last month, Trump pledged to be "strong" on increasing the age limit. A recent CNN poll found strong support for the idea, including among Republicans.

But Trump backed off that stance in recent weeks, following lobbying at the White House by officials from the NRA.

Rather than push for a sweeping federal law, Trump wants state and local officials to set the age limits. "States are making this decision," Trump wrote Monday, making an apparent reference to Republican Gov. Rick Scott's decision to sign a state law requiring gun buyers be 21 and imposing a three-day waiting period on most gun purchases.

The Florida bill also allows school staff to carry firearms, an idea Trump has championed but that is opposed by the National Education Association, the largest teachers lobby in the country, and other groups.

"Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law," Trump wrote Monday.

The Trump administration wants to help states provide teachers with "rigorous" firearms training, a White House official said Sunday night during a call with reporters describing the administration's efforts to prevent school shootings. But it was unclear if that meant offering new federal funding.

"The point is that schools should have this tool if they choose to use the tool," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on NBC's "Today" show. "Communities should have the tools, states should have the tool, but nobody should be mandated to do it."

DeVos will lead a Federal Commission on School Safety to study ways to prevent school shootings and make specific recommendations, the White House announced Sunday.


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