White House Unveils Proposals to arm school staff

(Wall Street Journal)—The White House on Sunday announced a plan to reduce gun violence at schools that includes spending federal money to train school staff to carry concealed weapons and creating a task force to study age restrictions and other potential changes in laws.

The White House blueprint, which comes in the wake of last month’s mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school, also calls on states to adopt laws allowing law enforcement, with court approval, to remove firearms from people who are a threat to themselves or others, and to temporarily prevent them from purchasing new guns.


Here is a summary of the White House proposals.

  • Assist states in training school staff in firearms use.
  • Allow military veterans and retired police to work as school-safety personnel.
  • Support legislation by Sens. John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) to improve background checks for gun purchases.
  • Support the proposed STOP School Violence Act to provide funding for safety improvements including violence-prevention training for teachers and students.
  • Call on states to allow police, with court approval, to remove firearms from people who are a threat to themselves or others.
  • Ban “bump stock” devices that allow some firearms to function as machine guns.
  • Form a commission to study age restrictions for gun purchases and the effects of violent video games and other entertainment and press coverage of mass shootings.

The plan also includes President Donald Trump’s support for two gun-related bills being considered by Congress, officials said. One, known as the “Fix NICS” bill, is designed to improve background checks for gun purchases, a measure that has run into hurdles in Congress. The second, known as the STOP School Violence Act, would authorize $50 million a year on school-safety improvements, including violence-prevention training for teachers and students.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who presented the plan to reporters Sunday, said it would “dramatically increase school safety.”

“We’ve had to talk about this topic way too much over the years,” Ms. DeVos said of school shootings. “There’s been a lot of talk in the past, but very little action.”

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Ms. DeVos will be the chairwoman of the commission, which will study issues such as increasing the age to buy some guns to 21, the effect of violence in videogames and movies on children and identifying the best violence-prevention strategies.

Mr. Trump has held several meetings with lawmakers, school administrators, students and families who have suffered from gun violence, and NRA executives. During the meetings, the president has signaled his interest in a range of options and scrambled the traditional political lines on an issue that has divided Americans for decades.

During one meeting, Mr. Trump dashed conservative hopes that he would support a proposal to allow gun owners who legally carry concealed firearms in one state to carry them in the other 49 states. The measure has long been a goal of the NRA and gun owners.

He also bucked Republican orthodoxy by suggesting the swift removal of guns from people who are potentially mentally ill.

Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that he thinks the age limit to buy certain guns should be 21 years old, a restriction sure to draw the ire of the gun lobby.

But in recent weeks, Mr. Trump also has made clear his belief that “gun-free zones” make schools less safe, increasing the chances that gun massacres go unanswered.

“A gun-free zone is, ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us,’” Mr. Trump said at a meeting in February.

Part of his response is to suggest that school staff members be armed, a move that has been opposed by gun-control advocates and teachers unions, but is favored by the NRA.

The Justice Department said Saturday that its bump-stock ban would amend the definition of machine guns in the National Firearms and Gun Control Act to include bump-stock-type devices. The regulation must undergo review by the Office of Management and Budget before it can take effect.

“President Trump is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety and security of every American, and he has directed us to propose a regulation addressing bump stocks,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Bump stocks became part of the national conversation over gun control last year, when the devices were found on weapons used in the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people on Oct. 1.

Mr. Trump foreshadowed the bump-stock regulation at a cabinet meeting Thursday. “Bump stocks are just about finished, from the standpoint of getting the legal work done,” Mr. Trump said.