Tue, Mar 13, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Trump reneges on raising assault rifle purchase age

‘DISAPPOINTED AND TROUBLED’:The White House is taking tiny baby steps not to upset the NRA, when it should be taking giant steps, US Senator Chuck Schumer said

AP, WASHINGTON

The White House has unveiled a new plan to prevent school shootings that backs off US President Donald Trump’s support for increasing the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons to 21.

Instead, a new federal commission on school safety is to examine the age issue as part of a package the White House announced on Sunday in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month that left 17 dead.

The US administration also pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers, and reiterated its call to improve the background check and mental health systems.

In a call with reporters on Sunday evening, US administration officials described the plan as a fulfillment of Trump’s call for action in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

“Today we are announcing meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students,” said US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is to chair the commission.

“Far too often, the focus” after such tragedies “has been only on the most contentious fights, the things that have divided people and sent them into their entrenched corners,” DeVos said.

The plan was immediately panned by gun control advocates, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Americans expecting real leadership to prevent gun violence will be disappointed and troubled by President Trump’s dangerous retreat from his promise,” the group’s co-president Avery Gardiner said.

US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described it as “tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA [National Rifle Association], when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken.”

Trump was deeply moved by the shooting and convened a series of listening sessions in the weeks after the massacre. In televised meetings with lawmakers, survivors of recent school shootings and the families of victims, Trump made a strong case for arming teachers, but also increasing the age for purchasing long guns.

“I mean, so they buy a revolver — a handgun — they buy at the age of 21. And yet, these other weapons that we talk about ... they’re allowed to buy them at 18. So how does that make sense?” he told school officials last month. “We’re going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18.”

However, Trump has also spoken repeatedly in recent weeks with the heads of the powerful NRA, which considers increasing the age of purchase to be an assault on the Second Amendment.

The NRA on Friday sued Florida over a new gun law signed by Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott that bans the purchase of firearms by anyone under the age of 21.

Instead, the issue is to be one of a list of topics to be studied by the DeVos commission, which would then provide recommendations to the US president.

US administration officials said they had not set a deadline for the commission’s recommendations, but expected they would be made in under a year.

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