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US Politics

Donald Trump says he would have rescued the Florida students unarmed - and that he’s ready to ‘fight’ the NRA over gun violence

Trump has promised to ‘get very tough’ with the National Rifle Association, which lobbies for lax gun laws

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 1:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 10:22pm

US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he’s willing to take on the National Rifle Association, although he doubted they would resist his response to the high school massacre that killed 17 people in Florida two weeks ago.

“Don’t worry about the NRA,” the group is “on our side,” Trump said during a meeting with state governors at the White House, adding: “But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them.”

Trump also told the governors that he would have tackled the shooter himself, even if he was unarmed, saying: “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

“And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too. You never know until you’re tested.” 

Trump has vocally criticized an armed deputy who failed to intervene in the February 14 Parkland mass shooting, suggesting he was a “coward”.

During the meeting, the president also told the politicians that he’s had lunch since the shooting with the NRA’s chief executive officer and top lobbyist.

As well as saying he would push back against the NRA, Trump suggested the country may have to make it easier to involuntarily commit people to psychiatric institutions.

“In the old days you’d put him in a mental institution,” Trump said, referring to the accused Florida gunman, Nikolas Cruz. “We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions.”

Trump has called for legislative changes in the wake of a February 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.

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He has voiced support for expanding the background check system to include more mental health information, raising the age for the purchase of some guns to 21 from 18, and ending the sale of “bump stocks.”

He has been most vocal about a proposal to allow some teachers to carry concealed firearms in schools. He has indicated that state governments might take the lead.

“Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them,” Trump posted on Twitter last week. 

“Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”

Despite Trump’s enthusiasm, it’s unclear whether Congress would be of the mind to buck NRA control and pass gun restrictions.

However, some Republicans have shown hope that the president’s words will spur action.

US gun debate stirs conservative conference after Florida massacre

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, whose bipartisan bill to close background check loopholes after the 2012 mass shooting at a Connecticut junior school stalled, said Congress may be moved to act this time on some measure to strengthen the current law. 

“I do think there are some members who were not supportive in the past and are reconsidering,” Toomey, a Republican, said on Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“The president’s expression of support for strengthening our background check system is very constructive.”

Representative Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida who lost both legs as a US Army bomb technician in Afghanistan, also said Trump’s seeming willingness to examine gun laws may win Republican support. 

But he said he would like to see further restrictions, including an assault-weapons ban, given that people are already barred from buying the most lethal weapons, including machineguns, grenades and anti-tank rockets.

“There are limits and we need to evaluate the limits,” he said Monday on MSNBC. “We’ve got to look at keeping our communities safe.”

While Congress decides how to proceed, businesses are rushing to cut ties to the NRA. Among them are Avis Budget Group Inc, Best Western International Inc, Chubb Ltd, Delta Air Lines Inc, MetLife Inc, Symantec Corp and United Continental Holdings Inc. 

Others are under intense social media pressure to follow.

Companies are abandoning the NRA in the wake of the Florida shooting

The White House is also considering the idea of using restraining orders to take firearms away from people considered dangerous as part of its response to last week’s massacre at a Florida high school, two people familiar with the matter said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott unveiled a proposal last week to raise the age requirement for purchasing semi-automatic rifles to 21, and allow some guns to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed mentally unstable by a judge.

Scott has said he’s opposed to arming teachers, but supports increasing the number of law enforcement officials in schools. 

State legislators in Florida are considering proposals to allow for some school officials to be trained to carry concealed weapons.