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White House unveils proposals to 'harden' schools

White House unveils proposals to 'harden' schools
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The Trump administration on Sunday unveiled a series of proposals on school safety and gun restrictions in the wake of the recent shooting in Florida, including a push for states to provide firearms training for school staff members.

White House officials said the administration will establish a federal commission to assess how to best address gun violence in schools, though it will not propose any legislation of its own. The administration will also not push for universal background checks or an increase in the age requirement to purchase a rifle.

Instead, as part of an effort to "harden" American schools, officials said the administration will provide assistance to states to arm teachers, encourage them to pass laws keeping guns away from dangerous individuals and call on Congress to pass legislation strengthening the national background check system.

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The Department of Justice will use existing programs to help schools partner with state and local law enforcement to provide “rigorous firearm training to qualified personnel" on a voluntary basis, after President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE has repeatedly voiced support for arming teachers, officials said. The president has argued against "gun-free zones," saying they attract shooters.

The White House said it will also support the transition of law enforcement and ex-military personnel into education careers.

Additionally, the administration is calling on states to adopt extreme risk protection orders, which would allow law enforcement to obtain a court order and temporarily take firearms away from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Trump previously responded to the concept with frustration, saying courts in some cases take too long to approve such orders.

"Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said during a meeting with lawmakers.

A senior administration official said Sunday the White House believes that risk protection orders "can be done in a way that protects due process but also increases public safety and saves lives."

At the federal level, the president is calling on Congress to pass two pieces of legislation.

The first, the Senate’s Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) bill, would ensure authorities report criminal records to the system, and would penalize agencies that don’t. The bill recently picked up six more co-sponsors, bringing the total number to 62.

Trump also supports the Stop School Violence Act, which would create a new grant program aimed at educating students and adults about how to spot and report warning signs of gun violence. The bill, introduced by Rep. John RutherfordJohn Henry Rutherford'Mass shooting' at Florida video game tournament: authorities Carter, Yoder advance in appropriations committee leadership reshuffle Senators introduce measure floating years of prison for those who injure cops MORE (R-Fla.), is expected to garner strong support in the House. 

While the White House proposal does not introduce any legislation itself, it does establish a commission that will assess best practices and possible solutions to prevent gun violence at schools.

The group will be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosCourt rules Obama-era student loan regulations must take effect DeVos will no longer seek to delay Obama-era student loan regulations Kavanaugh secures votes needed for Senate confirmation MORE and will include federal, local and school officials.

The commission does not have a set timeline for when it will conclude its work or deliver recommendations to the president, but the White House expects changes to be visible in classrooms in under a year.

"We want the commission to work with deliberate speed in terms of coming up with analysis and policy recommendations," a senior administration official said. "We don’t want to put any specific dates or deadlines that will prevent it from being a deliberative process."

The White House proposal comes in response to a Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed and several others were injured.

The shooting prompted renewed discussion over gun laws and how to prevent school shootings, with the conversation largely led by survivors of the attack.

In the weeks since the shooting, Trump has met with lawmakers, school officials and families who have been affected by gun violence and past school shootings to discuss possible solutions.

He has repeatedly advocated for arming teachers and “hardening” schools to protect them from threats. He has suggested teachers could undergo training and receive a bonus if they are willing to carry a firearm. Lawmakers and school officials have largely opposed the idea.

The president has at various times voiced support for a number of measures that did not appear in the White House's proposal.

Trump called on the Justice Department to ban bump stocks, an accessory that allows certain types of weapons to fire more rapidly. That was not included in the White House proposal, because it's "already moving forward," a senior administration official said.

The president previously appeared to endorse universal background checks during a meeting with lawmakers, a position the White House later walked back.

Trump also said he'd support raising the age requirement to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, though some Republicans expressed skepticism such a bill would gather mainstream support.

However, the White House said Sunday it will not call on states to raise the age requirement to purchase rifles. Instead, the federal commission will look at that as part of its broader assessment of best practices and solutions.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes raising the age requirement, and has filed a lawsuit over a recently passed Florida law that does just that.

The White House said Sunday it's not concerned about any resistance to its proposals from the gun lobby.

"The president has said repeatedly (the NRA) are patriots that love our country and care about our fellow citizens and constitutional rights," a senior administration official said. "We are not concerned."