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White House unveils school gun safety proposals

Plan includes firearms training for teachers, but amount of federal funding that will be set aside for training was not yet available.

Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High

Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on campus on Feb. 14, 2018. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Stocker

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, responding to last month’s deadly mass shooting at a South Florida high school, outlined a series of proposals on Sunday aimed at tackling the nation’s spate of school massacres, including providing federal funding to states to provide teachers with firearms training.

White House officials in a briefing with reporters Sunday evening said President Donald Trump also will establish a Federal Commission on School Safety, which would come up with further recommendations on curbing school gun violence, and that he will push Congress to pass the bipartisan “FixNICS” bill that aims to bolster the federal background check system used for gun purchases. Officials said the amount of federal funding that will be set aside for firearms training was not yet available.

Trump also will call on states to pass legislation allowing law enforcement officers to use court-issued “extreme risk protection orders” to seize guns from those gun owners deemed to be a risk to themselves and others, and the president will urge Congress to pass the STOP School Violence Act, which is sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and calls for federal funding for violence prevention initiatives in schools, officials said.

The list of proposals does not include Trump’s earlier call to raise the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21 in the days following last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and school faculty were killed by a former student with a history of mental illness.

The National Rifle Association previously pushed back against any calls to raise the gun purchase age, and has filed a lawsuit against Florida, seeking to block a sweeping gun reform bill passed last week that raises the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, and establishes a three-day waiting period on gun sales.

A senior Trump administration official, when asked about Trump’s previous suggestion to raise the minimum age, said the issue will be one of several topics explored by the Federal Commission on School Safety that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will head.

“We are committed to working quickly because there is no time to waste,” DeVos said in a conference call with reporters on Sunday.

The commission also will study and make recommendations to the president on “existing entertainment rating systems and youth consumption of violent entertainment,” and “best practices for school buildings and campus security,” according to an outline of the commission’s mandate provided by White House officials.

The creation of a commission comes just days after Trump, in a campaign rally speech in Pennsylvania on Saturday, knocked previous “blue-ribbon committees” focused on the nation’s drug laws.

“We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees with your wife and your wife and your husband, and they meet and they have a meal and they talk, talk talk talk, two hours later, then they write a report,” Trump said Saturday evening in a speech that was more than an hour long and delivered outside the Pittsburgh area.

The Trump administration will also “be conducting a full audit and review” of the FBI’s tip line, said Andrew Bremberg, an adviser to the president and director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. The FBI has come under scrutiny after the bureau acknowledged it never followed up on a call flagging Stoneman Douglas suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, as a potential threat.

Bremberg said the president also is calling for a review of the nation’s health privacy laws to determine if reforms are needed to improve coordination between mental health professionals, school officials and law enforcement agencies.

When asked about the time frame for the commission to deliver its recommendations, or for the president’s proposals to be enacted, a senior Trump administration official, speaking on background, said the administration did not “want to put any specific dates or deadlines” on the commission’s work, but said “we certainly see responses in under a year.”

“We want the commission to work with deliberate speed,” the official said.

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