Monday, March 12, 2018

White House vows to help arm teachers and backs off raising age for buying guns

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but it backed off President Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old. Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out several policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups. In the face of criticism from Democratic lawmakers and gun control advocates that he had succumbed to political pressure from the NRA and other special-interest groups, Trump defended his plan in a series of tweets Monday morning. “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!” Trump wrote. Ten minutes later, he added: “On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).” A third tweet asserted that if schools are declared gun-free zones “violence and danger are given an open invitation to enter.” The administration will start working with states to provide “rigorous firearms training” to teachers and other school personnel who volunteer to be armed, said Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The White House has not proposed offering states new funding for this training. The NRA supports the idea of allowing armed teachers in schools. Bremberg said the administration is backing two pieces of legislation: A bipartisan bill by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) that is designed to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; and the STOP School Violence Act, which would authorize state-based grants to implement violence prevention training for teachers and students. The administration also is urging all states to pass risk-protection orders, as Florida recently did, allowing law enforcement officers to remove firearms from individuals who are considered a threat to themselves or others and to prevent them from purchasing new guns, Bremberg said. Lastly, the administration wants to better integrate mental health, primary care and family services programs, and the president has ordered a full audit and review of the FBI tip line, he said. The FBI has said it ignored a warning that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz might attack a school just weeks before he allegedly carried out the rampage in Parkland. At the Justice Department, meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Saturday took an incremental step toward banning “bump stocks,” devices that can make semiautomatic weapons fire like fully automatic firearms. Sessions submitted to the Office of Management and Budget a proposed regulation on bump stocks. The proposal still requires that office’s approval, and once that is complete, it must be published and public comments considered before it becomes reality. While some gun-control advocates welcomed the move, others argued that it would be better for Congress to pass legislation banning the devices. Federal officials had in years past concluded that they could not legally regulate bump stocks, and the new move to do so is likely to be met with lawsuits from manufacturers of the devices. The NRA does not oppose regulating bump stocks under existing law, but it does object to new legislation...more

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