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Trump Pushes to ‘Harden’ Schools Against Mass Shooters in Meeting With Lawmakers

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 28, 2018 3 min read
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President Donald Trump again lobbied for increased school security measures, including armed staff, in a meeting with congressional lawmakers from both parties at the White House on Wednesday.

Democrats and Republicans pitched their own proposals to the president, from restricting access to rifles like the AR-15—an idea Trump repeatedly said he supports despite the National Rifle Association’s opposition—to comprehensive background checks and trying to keep firearms out of the hands of the mental ill, as well as countering the influence of violent video games and movies.

During the meeting, Trump also pressed lawmakers to come together and write one major bill dealing with school safety and gun access. Such a legislative coup will be difficult to pull off, however, given the failure of past attempts to deal with those issues, including the Obama administration’s proposals after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. Trump repeatedly noted how past presidents have failed to solve the issue.

The president has hosted a few meetings on guns and school violence since the shooting deaths of 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.

“We must harden our schools against attack,” Trump said at the Wednesday meeting. However, he went on to say that he doesn’t want schools to add too much security because, “If the shooter’s inside, he gets inside and closes the door, we can’t get people in.” (You can watch video of the meeting above.)

Earlier Wednesday, police reportedly arrested a Georgia teacher who allegedly fired a gun at a school.

Trump also praised the Texas “school marshal” program in which some authorized school employees can carry guns, but also said, “Some states are going to do what Texas does. And some states don’t want that program.” Go here to learn more about the various questions and challenges that districts could face in arming school staff.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., who represents Parkland, said on the question of whether arming teachers is a solution, “I don’t think it is. Many others don’t.” And Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said that it was important to think about school safety issues like bullet-proof glass.

Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., and others also pushed to make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill through things like court orders. Lawmakers including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also stressed that multiple government agencies were told about alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s danger to the public but failed to stop him.

There’s at least one bipartisan bill already in Congress designed to make it easier for students and teachers to report potentially dangerous behavior and to address related issues, the STOP School Violence Act. There are other bills targeting school safety as well, but they don’t deal with controversial issues like gun control.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also said they thought violent video games and movies played a role in incidents like in Parkland, although there’s no public evidence so far that Nikolas Cruz was particularly fond of either. Trump agreed, saying that sometimes he saw what his son Barron watched and wondered, ""How is that possible?” He also mused that perhaps movies should perhaps be rated for “terror.”

Ultimately, a lot of the action on these issues occurs at the state level. Check out our tracker of state legislation on school safety in the year after the Sandy Hook murders.

Trump has held a similar public meeting with key lawmakers on another issue related to education: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. But despite multiple attempts by federal lawmakers to codify DACA while making other changes to the immigration system and border security, Trump’s declaration that he wanted a “bill of love” failed to get Senate DACA bills over the finish line, and he came out against a few bipartisan proposals.

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