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Trump Sees 'Not Much Political Support' to Raise Federal Gun Purchase Age Limit

President Trump’s plan to reduce gun violence at schools is getting a cool reception on Capitol Hill.
President Trump’s plan to reduce gun violence at schools is getting a cool reception on Capitol Hill.

Michael Reynolds/Zuma Press


Donald Trump

on Monday defended his decision to not include new federal age restrictions in his plan to reduce gun violence at schools, saying they had little political support, amid a cool reception on Capitol Hill for other parts of his proposal.

Mr. Trump’s remarks came a day after the release of a White House school safety plan that focused on arming school staff but didn’t include the president’s earlier call to raise the age limit.

“Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly),” the president said on


about raising the age limit.

Last week, Florida enacted a law banning adults under the age of 21 from buying firearms. The National Rifle Association immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of restrictions.

On Sunday, the White House called for spending federal money to train school staff to carry concealed weapons, an idea that has little traction on Capitol Hill.

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President Donald Trump, in response to Florida’s deadly school shooting, pledged action on certain gun regulations on Feb. 22, including background checks. He said he’s concerned that violence on the internet, in videogames and in movies, is shaping how young “minds are being formed.” Photo: Agence France-Presse

“If schools are mandated to be gun free zones, violence and danger are given an open invitation to enter. Almost all school shootings are in gun free zones,” Mr. Trump wrote Monday on Twitter. “Cowards will only go where there is no deterrent!”

Congressional Democrats have dismissed Mr. Trump’s plan to reduce gun violence as insufficient, while Republicans have yet to express strong backing for the proposals.

The White House blueprint comes in the wake of last month’s mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school. It calls for “hardening our schools” by instituting security procedures comparable to those at airports, sports stadiums and government buildings. One way to do that, the White House said, is to use Justice Department grants to train school personnel to carry weapons “on a voluntary basis.”

In the plan, the White House backed a bill from

Sen. John Cornyn

(R., Texas) that would tighten compliance with the national system for background checks, but didn’t embrace broader legislation expanding that system, which Mr. Trump had applauded in February in a televised meeting.

The proposal to extend Justice Department grants to train school staff to carry concealed weapons has encountered Democratic opposition and has little vocal Republican support on Capitol Hill.

“If more guns = less gun deaths, America would have the lowest gun violence rate in the world,”

Sen. Chris Murphy

(D., Conn.), one of the Senate’s loudest gun-control advocates, said on Twitter Monday morning in response to a report that the plan included gun training for teachers. “Guess what? That not how it works.”

Since 1998, there have been more than a dozen shootings at kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools that resulted in multiple deaths. These are some of the victims.

The Trump administration plan also calls on states to adopt laws allowing police, with court approval, to remove firearms from people who are a threat to themselves or others and to temporarily prevent those people from purchasing new guns. The plan also seeks improvements to mental-health systems to help identify and treat individuals who may be a threat.

“The White House has taken tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken,” Senate Minority Leader

Chuck Schumer

(D., N.Y.) said in a statement Sunday night. “Democrats in the Senate will push to go further including passing universal background checks, actual federal legislation on protection orders, and a debate on banning assault weapons.”

Messrs. Cornyn and Murphy, who also backs the “Fix NICS” bill, have been trying to work out an agreement to vote on the legislation on the Senate floor. Democrats are seeking votes on other gun-related legislation as amendments to the bill. The bill has already passed the House, but there it was coupled with conservative legislation that would enable gun owners who legally carry concealed firearms in one state to carry them in the other 49 and the District of Columbia. Mr. Trump publicly warned Republicans that the concealed-carry reciprocity bill can’t make it through the Senate.

Some Republicans praised less controversial elements of Mr. Trump’s gun proposal, including the incentive for states to consider legislation allowing for gun restraining orders. There is also bipartisan support for boosting school safety by training personnel to spot early warning signs and improve coordination between schools and local law enforcement.

“I applaud the president for supporting many of the initiatives I have offered that will promote gun safety,” including encouraging states to adopt protective orders and school-safety measures,

Sen. Marco Rubio

(R., Fla.) said in a statement Monday morning. His legislation doesn’t call for arming teachers, which he opposes.

Few Republicans on Capitol Hill have enthusiastically backed Mr. Trump’s call for arming certain teachers at schools, and some are opposed to it.

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The House this week is expected to vote on a bill increasing school security funding that would prohibit using federal funds to arm teachers. A school-safety bill from Senate Finance Committee Chairman

Orrin Hatch

(R., Utah) also prohibits funds being put toward arming teachers.

Rather than throwing their support behind Mr. Trump’s call to arm school staff, GOP leaders have focused on getting the “Fix NICS” bill passed through both chambers, improving the country’s mental-health treatment and increasing funding for school safety in less controversial ways, including violence-prevention training, more mental-health counselors and safety upgrades.

House Speaker

Paul Ryan

(R., Wis.) has said state and local governments, rather than Congress, should decide whether teachers should be armed.

“That is really a question for local government, local school boards, local states,” he told reporters in late February. “As a parent myself and as a citizen, I think it’s a good idea. But as speaker of the House, I think we need to respect federalism and respect local—local jurisdictions.”

—Michelle Hackman contributed to this article.

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