President Donald Trump is willing to do what is right to ensure we have safe schools, even if it puts him at odds with the National Rifle Association, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Thursday.
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“In dealing with school safety issues, we don’t expect to agree with the NRA on every single issue,” Shah told reporters at the daily press briefing. “We do think they are concerned about school safety.
“We think they’re interested in doing what’s right.”
President Trump on Thursday called for raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy assault weapons and stronger background checks for purchasers — a day after a White House listening session in the wake of last week’s high school massacre in Florida that killed 17 people and injured 14 others.
Trump directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to propose rules Tuesday that would ban “bump stock” devices that enable conventional weapons to fire as fully automatics.
But the NRA restated its opposition Thursday against raising age limits on gun purchases — and Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre called for “hardening” America’s schools with enhanced, and armed, security personnel.
“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” LaPierre told the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Caucus outside Washington.
“The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous,” he said.
The president also said at Wednesday’s listening session that more school personnel should carry concealed weapons in school as a deterrent to shooting attacks.
Still, President Trump remained confident Thursday the NRA would support his call for raising the assault-weapons age limit.
“We’re going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18,” he told members of law enforcement at the White House. “The NRA will back it, and so will Congress.”
At the press briefing, Shah emphasized Trump was only interested in raising age limits on semi-automatic weapons and not a full ban on assault guns, despite advocating for one in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve.”
“He campaigned for president and was opposed to the assault weapons ban,” Shah said. “His position hasn’t changed on that.”
Reporters hammered Shah on the president’s call for concealed weapons for school personnel and related issues, including cost and training.
In response to the practicality of arming as many as one million teachers with firearms, Shah said: “When you have a horrific situation like you had last week and other school shootings, what we think and don’t think is practical can change.”
The president also disagreed with the term “active-shooter drills” for students, with Shah saying it “can be frightening for young children.
“I think ‘safety drills,’ which help in these types of situations, would be more appropriate,” he added. “‘Active-shooter drill’ for a young child could be very frightening.”
On the costs surrounded concealed weapons in schools, Shah beat back estimates of as much as $1 billion by saying: “The policy hasn’t been flushed out, but is that too much to pay for school safety?”