The White House has stepped back from even a limited measure to restrict gun ownership, following weeks of shifting positions after the February 14 mass killing at a Florida high school.
In its latest statement of policy on Sunday, the White House emphasized “rigorous firearms training” to some teachers and formally endorsed a bill on the federal background checks system, reversing its rollback of the checks over the past year.
However, the Administration backed away from an earlier statement by Donald Trump about raising the minimum age to purchase some guns, including assault rifles, from 18 to 21 years old.
The National Rifle Association objected vigorously to any raising of the limit, and Trump shifted his position earlier this month after a meeting with the NRA’s top lobbyist.
Instead, the Administration proclaimed an emphasis on mental health and school safety initiatives, even though the wisdom of arming teachers has been questioned by law enforcement officers, activists, and teachers themselves, including the National Education Association.
A resurgent campaign for gun control has been led by the survivors of the February killing of 17 students and staff at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Douglas student Sarah Chadwick responds to the attack ad by NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch:
Parkland student Sarah Chadwick is clapping back at the NRA with this incredible video pic.twitter.com/vIglWnfzLH
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 11, 2018
The White House has tried to contain them by meeting less vocal students and parents and with a series of changing, sometimes contradictory declarations by Trump.
On Sunday, officials said Trump will establish a Federal Commission on School Safety, to be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
DeVos, who favors arming teachers, declared “a pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety” in a conference call with reporters: “We are committed to working quickly because there’s no time to waste.”
Questioned by reporters about the backtracking on the age limit, a “senior administration official” said it was “a state-based discussion right now” although it would be explored by DeVos’s commission.
In Florida, Governor Rick Scott — who had been a firm ally of the NRA before the Parkland mass killing — defied the group on Friday by signing into law a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns; raising of the minimum age to 21; and banning the possession of bump stocks, which convert semi-automatic guns into automatic weapons.
“I am going to do what I think are common-sense solutions,” Scott said. “I think this is the beginning. There is now going to be a real conversation about how we make our schools safe.”
The NRA immediately announced that it will fight the measures in court.