WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday distanced himself from his earlier calls to raise the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21 in the wake of a deadly South Florida school shooting, saying on Twitter there is “not much political support” for changing the age requirement.
In a trio of morning tweets, Trump said he backed “strengthening of background checks,” but was “watching court cases and rulings before acting” on raising the minimum age to purchase guns. The tweets came after White House officials unveiled a series of proposals Sunday evening aimed at combating the mass shootings on school campuses, including funding states to provide “rigorous” firearms training for schoolteachers.
“States are making this decision,” Trump wrote on Twitter regarding the minimum age. “Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”
Florida’s state legislature recently passed a series of gun reform measures in response to last month’s shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that include raising the minimum age to purchase guns to 21, prompting the National Rifle Association to file a federal lawsuit seeking to block the changes.
Trump’s tweets on Monday struck a more cautious tone than previous remarks he made on raising the minimum age in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Days after the Feb. 14 shooting in which 17 students and school personnel were killed by a former student, Trump told a bipartisan roundtable of lawmakers they should give “serious thought” to raising the minimum age for purchasing guns, and chided some for being afraid to push forward such legislation because “some of you people are petrified of the NRA.”
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking at Monday’s daily press briefing, said the president was still weighing the possibility of raising the minimum age, but wanted a special commission on school safety to further explore “the best path forward” for such legislation.
“He hasn’t backed away from these things at all,” Huckabee Sanders said, adding that Trump’s school safety commission would explore whether a minimum age should be imposed via federal legislation or by each state.
Huckabee Sanders said Trump is prioritizing support for gun reform legislation that already has bipartisan support in Congress, such as calling on lawmakers to pass the bipartisan “FixNICS” bill that aims to improve the federal background check system used for gun purchases.
“The president, as you know, doesn’t have the ability to just create federal law, and he would need a number of other individuals to come together to help make that happen,” Huckabee Sanders said. “So what he is pushing forward are things that can immediately be accomplished, either through the administration or that have broad-base bipartisan support in Congress.”
Democratic lawmakers criticized Trump’s series of proposals unveiled on Sunday for not going far enough to prevent another mass school shooting. Trump’s school safety plan also calls for federal funding for violence-prevention programs in schools.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a statement late Sunday said: “The White House has taken tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken.”
Also Monday, Huckabee Sanders said the White House “fully” expects to proceed with a meeting between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un announced last week.
Huckabee Sanders’ remarks came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking at a news conference in Nigeria, said the United States had “not heard anything directly back from North Korea,” since Trump accepted an invitation to meet with Kim that was delivered last Thursday by a South Korean envoy. Tillerson added, “We do expect to hear something directly from them.”