Sunday 24 June 2018

Trump defies NRA with call for raised minimum age on buying assault rifles

The US president also suggested teachers in many US schools should be armed amid a growing furore over gun violence.

Donald Trump has defied the NRA, which numbers among the president's strongest backers (AP)
Donald Trump has defied the NRA, which numbers among the president's strongest backers (AP)

By Jill Colvin and Matthew Daly

US president Donald Trump has defied many of his supporters in gun lobbying group the National Rifle Association (NRA) by saying assault rifles should be kept out of the hands of anyone under 21.

Amid a continuing storm over gun violence in America following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, Mr Trump also pushed hard for arming security guards and many teachers in US schools, insisting: “There’s nothing more important than protecting our children.”

The US president added that he’d spoken with many members of US congress and NRA officials and said they would go along with his plans in the wake of last week’s shooting which left 17 people dead at the school in Parkland, Florida.

But there were no words of support from the NRA for his minimum-age proposal — and outright opposition from organisations of teachers and school security guards regarding the idea of arming schools to deal with intruders.

Mr Trump said of the NRA would back his call for raising the legal age of purchase for “all” guns from 18 to 21. A spokesman later said Mr Trump was speaking specifically about semi-automatic weapons.

The president’s proposal came just hours after the NRA affirmed its opposition, calling such a restriction an infringement on gun owners’ rights.

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Mr Trump has hosted a series of listening sessions, seeking views on gun control in the US in the wake of deadly violence in Florida (AP)

Mr Trump has spent the past two days listening to ideas about how to stem gun violence at schools after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which sparked a wave of protests. On Wednesday, he heard from students and family members of those killed in recent shootings and on Thursday he spoke to local and state officials.

In Florida, meanwhile, funerals continued. And a sheriff’s deputy who had been on duty at the school but never went inside to confront the shooter resigned after being suspended without pay.

Mr Trump has been proposing a growing list of ideas, including more stringent background checks for gun buyers, reopening some mental institutions to hold potential killers and banning “bump stock” devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic machine guns.

He said many teachers have military experience and suggested they be paid bonuses for the added responsibility of carrying weapons. He also appeared open to other proposals to “harden” schools, such as fortifying walls and limiting entry points.

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Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team depart after the funeral service for Aaron Feis (AP)

One idea he did not like was more “active shooter” drills, which some schools hold. He called that “a very negative thing” and said he would not want his own son participating.

In Florida, Republican senator Marco Rubio said he now is open to raising age requirements for long-gun purchases. This comes a day after he was confronted at a CNN town hall by Parkland students and parents over his pro-gun votes and support from the NRA.

Kansas senator Pat Roberts, another Republican, told reporters during a visit to the Kansas Statehouse that he supported raising age requirements, saying: “Certainly, nobody under 21 should have an AR-15”, in reference to the rifle used in a number of mass killings.

NRA leaders appeared unannounced at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, blaming the FBI and local reporting failures for the Florida shooting.

“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre.

“The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”

Press Association

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