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Trump Backs Raising Age to Buy Rifles  02/23 06:05

   The nation should keep assault rifles out of the hands of anyone under 21, 
President Donald Trump says, defying his loyal supporters in the National Rifle 
Association amid America's public reckoning over gun violence. He also pushed 
hard for arming security guards and many teachers in U.S. schools.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation should keep assault rifles out of the hands of 
anyone under 21, President Donald Trump says, defying his loyal supporters in 
the National Rifle Association amid America's public reckoning over gun 
violence. He also pushed hard for arming security guards and many teachers in 
U.S. schools.

   "There's nothing more important than protecting our children," Trump said, 
adding that he'd spoken with many members of Congress and NRA officials and 
insisting they would go along with his plans in the wake of last week's school 
shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

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

   "The NRA will back it and so will Congress," Trump contended as he called 
for raising the legal age of purchase for "all" guns from 18 to 21. A spokesman 
later said 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.

   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. On Wednesday, he heard from students and family members of those killed 
in recent shootings and on Thursday from 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.

   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 Thursday that 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.

   One idea he didn't like: the "active shooter" drills that some schools hold. 
He called that "a very negative thing" and said he wouldn't want his own son 
participating.

   Spokesman Raj Shah later said Trump was concerned about the name and would 
prefer calling them safety drills.

   In Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he now is open to raising age 
requirements for long-gun purchases. That was the 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 Sen. 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."

   NRA leaders emerged in unannounced appearances at the annual Conservative 
Political Action Conference, 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."

   The NRA was an early supporter of Trump's campaign, and it remains unclear 
how far the president will go to cross them.

   Shortly before LaPierre took the stage, Trump offered a rallying cry on 
Twitter, calling NRA leaders "Great People and Great American Patriots. They 
love our Country and will do the right thing."

   "I don't think I'll be going up against them," he said of the politically 
influential group. "I really think the NRA wants to do what's right."

   In Congress, a bill being drafted by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and 
Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would apply more broadly than just to assault rifles such 
as the AR-15 used in the Florida shootings. It would raise the age requirements 
for all rifles.

   In the end, Trump did not stray too far from conservative Republican 
orthodoxy. His focus when it comes to background checks is on mental health 
concerns and not loopholes that permit loose private gun sales on the internet 
and at gun shows. And he remains opposed to a full ban on assault rifles, Shah 
said.

   Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he was skeptical the president would 
follow though.

   "The last time he showed support for sensible gun reform --- no fly, no buy 
--- he quickly dropped his support once the NRA opposed it. I hope this time 
will be different," Schumer said in a statement, referring to a measure backed 
by Democrats to prevent people on a terrorism-related "no fly" list from buying 
guns.

   Indeed, it is not clear that the GOP-controlled Congress, which is in 
recess, will take up or act on a variety of legislative proposals that have 
been made to address gun violence. Those include measures to expand federal 
background checks, allow authorities to issue emergency orders to take guns 
from people identified as a threat to themselves or others, and raise the 
minimum age for rifle purchases to 21.

   Polls show growing support for gun control measures, including 97-percent 
backing for universal background checks in a Quinnipiac University survey 
released Tuesday.

   But recent mass shootings, including the 2012 mass murder of elementary 
school children in Newtown, Connecticut, and the killing of 58 people in Las 
Vegas last fall, have not resulted in significant legislation. In fact, a bill 
passed by the House in December would make it easier for gun owners to carry 
concealed weapons across state lines.


(KA)

 
 
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