In the wake of last week's school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead, President Trump held a discussion at the White House yesterday (February 21st) that was broadcast live with a group of grieving parents and students who have been affected by mass shootings across the country, including some from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the February 14th attack took place. The expressed a range of views during the often emotional discussion, with disagreement over whether more gun control is needed and whether school staff should be armed. Trump pledged to get something done, saying, "It's not going to be talk like it has been in the past. It’s been going on too long, too many instances, and we’re going to get it done." He suggested ideas including arming teachers or other school officials, saying that if a coach who died last week protecting students had a gun he would have been able to stop the shooter. He also brought up potentially reopening some mental institutions that were closed four decades ago, and his remarks suggested he might be open to raising the age limit for people to buy assault weapons. That may be complicated, however, by the National Rifle Association saying last night that they are opposed to raising the age requirement for rifle and shotgun purchases. Those under 21 are already not allowed to buy handguns.
Meanwhile, as the event was going on in Washington, Parkland students, joined by survivors of other mass shootings, including the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, lobbied at the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee in favor of stronger gun laws. Additionally, students at dozens of high schools across the country walked out of class to protest gun violence and honor the victims of last week’s shooting. Some of them lasted 17 minutes, for the 17 people killed at Parkland, and many of the students chanted, "Never again," which has become a rallying cry since the Florida shooting.
CNN held a televised town hall last night (February 21st) in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last week, with students, parents and teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the audience. Among those asking questions were parents and siblings of the 17 people who were killed, as well as the Stoneman Douglas students who've emerged as leaders of the post-attack calls for action to prevent more mass shootings. Republican Senator Marco Rubio was the focus of anger from many as the only Republican of three lawmakers there and as a recipient of significant donations from the National Rifle Association. Rubio insisted he wasn't going to stop taking NRA donations, saying he'd always been a gun rights supporter and that the NRA supported him because of his positions, not the other way around, and also said he wouldn't support a semi-automatic weapons ban. However, he did shift on some gun positions, saying he would favor raising the minimum age for buying an assault rifle from 18 to 21 and would consider restricting the size of magazines for firearms. He also disagreed with a suggestion President Trump made at his own forum earlier in the day, with Rubio saying he wouldn't be in favor of arming teachers. Rubio said he was trying to find common ground, and got credit from his Democratic fellow Senator Bill Nelson for showing up. Trump and Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott were invited to the town hall, but declined to come. Also present was Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland.