President Donald Trump will push states to make it easier to seize weapons from people a court finds dangerous, hold federal agencies more accountable for background checks, and promote arming teachers.
The White House’s formal release of a school safety agenda is an early step, as the president is also naming a commission to come up with more recommendations.
“The president’s plan focuses on the following areas. First, hardening our schools,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday before the formal release. “We will ensure our schools are safe and secure—just like our airports, stadiums, and government buildings—with better training and preparedness.”
Second, strengthening background checks and prevention. President Trump is supporting legislation and reforms to strengthen the background checks system and law enforcement operations.
Third, reforming mental health programs. The president is proposing an expansion and reform of mental health programs, including those that help identify and treat individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others.
The administration seeks to take action after the Feb. 14 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman with an AR-15-style rifle killed 17 people.
In a tweet earlier Monday, Trump backed away from the idea of increasing the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21. Sanders said the president hasn’t abandoned the proposal, but said there is little support for it on Capitol Hill.
“Right now the president’s primary focus is on pushing through things that we know have broad bipartisan support or things that we can do from an administrative perspective, that we can do immediately, but we haven’t let go of some of those other things that we are going to continue to review.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be the chairwoman of the commission, and the White House announced over the weekend plans to make schools more secure, strengthen background checks, and reform mental health programs.
DeVos did a round of interviews with morning TV news shows and asserted that “everything is on the table.” But details for the panel have yet to be worked out.
“The secretary will unveil a robust plan regarding the commission’s membership, scope of work, and timeline in the coming days,” Education Department press secretary Elizabeth Hill told The Daily Signal in a statement. “She is humbled by opportunity to lead this commission and is committed to finding commonsense solutions that will keep our nation’s children safe at school.”
The Justice Department has already embarked on banning bump stocks—or devices that can be attached to rifles to make them fire rounds faster.
And on Monday, the Department of Homeland Security also announced it would provide federal grants and training for school districts to work with local first responders to secure school buildings and identify potential problems.
“No child should have to worry about their safety when in school,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement Monday.
“While state and local partners have primary responsibility for the physical security at schools, through trainings, best practices guides, workshops, and tabletop exercises, we hope to improve awareness and foster a culture of preparedness,” Nielsen continued. “We are working with partners around the country to harden these vulnerable targets.”
Under the Trump administration’s plan, the Justice Department will assist school districts to work with local law enforcement to train school personnel in firearms. The administration will also encourage state attorneys general to audit school district compliance with emergency preparedness.
The Justice Department is also asking states to adopt “extreme risk protection orders,” which would allow law enforcement, with approval from a court, to remove firearms from individuals who are a demonstrated threat and temporarily prevent individuals from purchasing new firearms
Trump is backing a bipartisan Senate bill by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. The bill holds federal agencies more accountable for reporting information to NICS and provides financial incentivizes for states to improve their reporting to the system.
On the mental health front, Trump is calling for a review of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to determine if any changes or clarifications are needed to improve coordination between mental health and other health care professionals, school officials, and law enforcement personnel.
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