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Trump doesn't set age for guns, defers on arming teachers

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published March 12, 2018 at 10:45 a.m. Updated March 12, 2018 at 7:41 p.m.

us-president-donald-trump-speaks-at-a-campaign-rally-at-atlantic-aviation-in-moon-township-pa-saturday-march-10-2018-ap-photocarolyn-kaster

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation in Moon Township, Pa., Saturday, March 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — Not two weeks ago, President Donald Trump wagged his finger at a Republican senator and scolded him for being "afraid of the NRA," declaring that he would stand up to the powerful gun lobby and finally get results on quelling gun violence after last month's Florida school shooting.

On Monday, Trump struck a very different tone as he backpedaled from his earlier demands for sweeping changes and bowed to Washington reality. The president, who recently advocated increasing the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon to 21, tweeted that he's "watching court cases and rulings" on the issue, adding that there is "not much political support (to put it mildly)."

Over the weekend, the White House released a limited plan to combat school shootings that leaves the question of arming teachers to states and local communities and sends the age issue to a commission for review. Just two days earlier, Trump had mocked commissions as something of a dead end while talking about the opioid epidemic. "We can't just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees," he said, adding that all they do is "talk, talk, talk."

Seventeen people were killed in last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., prompting a national conversation about gun laws, fierce advocacy for stronger gun control from surviving students and, initially, a move from Trump to buck his allies at the National Rifle Association.

In a televised meeting with lawmakers Feb. 28, Trump praised members of the gun lobby as "great patriots" but declared "that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18."

He then turned toward Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, and questioned why previous gun control legislation did not include that provision.

"You know why?" said Trump, answering his own question. "Because you're afraid of the NRA, right? Ha ha."

Toomey had a ready response after the president's tweet Monday: "It's quite obvious that I'm the guy that stood up to the NRA," he said. Asked if Trump was afraid of the NRA, Toomey said, "I don't know what's driving his decision."

The president's words last month rattled some Republicans in Congress and sparked hope among some gun control advocates that meaningful regulations would be enacted. But the president wrote in a tweet that night: "Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!"

White House aides said Monday the president was focusing on achievable options after facing significant opposition from lawmakers on a more comprehensive approach. Trump will back two modest pieces of legislation, and the administration pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers.

Trump tweeted Monday of the age limit that "States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly)."

The White House insisted that Trump remained committed to more significant changes even if they are delayed.

"We can't just write things down and make them law. We actually have to follow a process," said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "Right now the president's primary focus is pushing through things we know that have broad bipartisan support."

She placed blame for the inaction on Capitol Hill.

Democrats and gun control advocates were quick to pounce on the president's retreat from previous demands, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., tweeting that Trump "couldn't even summon the political courage to propose raising the age limit on firearm purchases - despite repeated promises to support such a step at a meeting with lawmakers."

Television personality Geraldo Rivera — who had urged the president to consider tougher age limits during a dinner at Trump's Florida club — tweeted that Trump had "blinked in face of ferocious opposition from #NRA."

Still, Trump argued that this was progress.

"Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House," he tweeted. He added that an effort to bar bump stock devices was coming and that "Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!"

The two measures backed by Trump — an effort to strengthen the federal background check system and an anti-school violence grant program — both enjoy bipartisan support, though some Republicans object and many Democrats say they are insufficient.

Trump drew some Republican backing, with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who wrote the school safety bill, tweeting he was "grateful" for the White House backing and calling the measure "the best first step we can take" to make students safer.

Separately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday directed the FBI to identify localities that are not fully reporting information about arrests and mental health records to federal authorities. Such information could prevent someone from purchasing a gun if discovered during a background check.

Sessions told the FBI that people who can't legally own guns shouldn't be able to pass background checks "simply because information was not available to you."

No deadline was set for recommendations from Trump's planned commission, but officials expected them within a year.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Illinoisroy says... March 12, 2018 at 12:19 p.m.

Spoken like a true leader?

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drs01 says... March 12, 2018 at 1:57 p.m.

When Tommy Robinson was Sheriff in Pulaski County he stated that his deputies would be working convenience stores armed with shotguns, pistols etc. He did this to deter the rash of robberies that had been happening. And it worked. Would-be robbers went elsewhere, where they were less likely to get their ass shot.
PC announcements that "we are a gun free zone" are invitations to criminals. Common sense needs to apply to this issue. Too many panties are in a wad choking off reasonable dialogue.

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malice06220956 says... March 12, 2018 at 2:36 p.m.

The age limitation would not last a day longer than the first time the SCOTUS reviewed it - I'm sure a lower court might uphold it as they have a reputation for activist judges - but I doubt it would survive SCOTUS. It may be that individual retail stores will voluntarily set limits.

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3WorldState1 says... March 12, 2018 at 2:59 p.m.

Trump the puppet.

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drs01 says... March 12, 2018 at 3:36 p.m.

What good are age limits when irresponsible parents, guardians, and law enforcement ignore the signs. Isn't that what has been happening?
New law - 20 years in prison for being a bad parent. There just aren't enough jails to handle the load.

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sjmays says... March 12, 2018 at 3:42 p.m.

The ones shooting up schools are not criminals. They are disturbed children -- under 21.

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RBear says... March 12, 2018 at 5:47 p.m.

Good old drs pushing a bunch of false points on the issue. Gun free zones are NOT invitations for shooters. If you watch how mass shooters operate, they don't care about anything. They are going in to commit a crime regardless of the environment. Only an idiot thinks that "attracts" mass shooters.
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With regards to discipline, you could say that about a lot of things. drs is just diverting on the issue because it doesn't fit the NRA message. drs and Trump are NRA b*tches. Oh, and making the "20 years for being a bad parent" point just shows how stupid the argument can get.
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With regards to Trump, we know who he tricks for and it's not the American public. No solutions from this WH and just kicking the can down the road. We will remember the victims come November and 2020.

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BOLTAR says... March 12, 2018 at 9:01 p.m.

This has been a bait and switch from day one.

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HawgJockey says... March 12, 2018 at 10:43 p.m.

So let me get this straight. The latest killer is the only one who purchased his rifle himself before the age of 21. The FBI has been too busy trying to overturn the election and missed to very specific reports. The Broward County sherriff's office had over 30 contacts with him. He was expelled from the school. FL DCFS found nothing wrong with him. Some 60+ reported encounters with LE. The SRO & 3 deputies hide outside and it's the NRA's fault? Y'all have to be blind with hatred to come up with that conclusion. Nothing proposed or passed by FL will affect this problem.

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HawgJockey says... March 12, 2018 at 10:46 p.m.

If democrats are so desirous of gun bans, why didn't Obama pass a ban when he had a veto-proof congress? That's the bill of goods he sold y'all.

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