Donald Trump has said there is “not much political support” for raising the minimum age to purchase certain guns as the White House backpedalled on his proposed gun measures.
In a newly released plan to prevent school shootings, the Trump administration left the issue of arming teachers up to states and local communities and backed away from calling for a raise in the age limit to buy assault-style weapons – two ideas that Mr Trump publicly favoured last month,
But the age issue has put the President at odds with the nation’s largest gun-rights lobbying group, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and certain fellow Republicans.
The NRA last week sued Florida over a new gun law signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott that bans the purchase of firearms by anyone under the age of 21, claiming it was unconstitutional. The law also allows the arming and training of school staff and introduced a three-day waiting period on all gun sales and a ban on bump stocks, a device that enables semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds a minute.
“ …. On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision,” Mr Trump said in a tweet. “Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”
He also reiterated his support for strengthening background checks, arming school officials and banning bump stocks.
“Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!” Mr Trump tweeted.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Monday pushed back against the idea of arming teachers with assault-style weapons.
“I don’t think assault weapons in schools, carried by any school personnel, is the appropriate thing,” Ms DeVos said in an interview with NBC.
A new federal commission chaired by Ms DeVos will examine the age issue as part of the White House’s plan to prevent school shootings. The President over the weekend panned policy commissions, saying “we can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees”.
In the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month that left 17 people dead, Mr Trump has hosted several roundtables aimed at finding a solution to gun violence. Stunning many, he also announced his support for certain gun-control measures that are opposed by the NRA, but many Republicans in Congress have not followed suit. Additionally, the pieces of gun control legislation that appear the most likely to pass in Congress do not do enough to address gun violence, Democrats have said.
Ms DeVos has called the White House’s proposal “meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students”. She said on Monday said the plan was “the first step in a more lengthy process.”
No deadline has been set for the commission’s recommendations. However, officials expect them to be published in less than a year.
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When asked why the White House has backed away from Mr Trump’s support for increasing the age to buy assault-style weapons, Ms DeVos said that “everything is on the table”. She also stressed that the commission would study a wide range of issues.
Ms DeVos said it should be up to states to decide whether to arm teachers.
“This is an issue that is best decided by local communities and by states,” DeVos said on NBC. “It’s not going to be appropriate in every location but it is going to be appropriate in some places.”
The White House’s proposal has already been criticised by gun control advocates.
“Americans expecting real leadership to prevent gun violence will be disappointed and troubled by President Trump’s dangerous retreat from his promise,” said Avery Gardiner, the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer it as “tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken.”