Trump drops calls to raise guns age limit


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Media captionThis is why US gun laws probably won’t change

US President Donald Trump’s plan to deter school shootings does not include his repeated calls to raise the age for buying semi-automatic rifles to 21.

But he is moving ahead with his controversial proposal to provide firearms training to school employees.

The president tweeted that there was not much political support for raising the minimum age on weapons sales.

Americans must be 18 to buy a rifle or shotgun and 21 to buy a handgun from licensed dealers under federal law.

Private, unlicensed sales are federally allowed at any age for rifles and shotguns, and 18 for handguns, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The White House unveiled its proposals on Sunday night, following an attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February.

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Media captionParkland 17: Empty desks a memorial to students killed

The 19-year-old suspect – who allegedly used a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle to attack Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – is charged with 17 counts of murder.

White House officials described Sunday’s plan as a fulfilment of the president’s call for action after Parkland.

It proposes to:

  • Fund programmes to train school staff to use firearms
  • Encourage military veterans and retired police officers to become teachers
  • Improve background and mental health checks

The White House said a new federal commission on school safety would examine the age limit issue.

Mr Trump tweeted on Monday: “On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting.

“States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who will chair the new federal commission on school safety, said the proposals were “meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students”.

Speaking last month, the Republican president had suggested it was a problem that Americans can legally buy semi-automatic rifles from the age of 18, yet have to wait until 21 to buy handguns.

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Media captionWould we reduce the incentive to commit a mass shooting if we refused to report the killer?

“I mean, so they buy a revolver – a handgun – they buy at the age of 21,” he told school officials.

“And yet, these other weapons that we talk about, they’re allowed to buy them at 18.

“So how does that make sense? We’re going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18.”

He had also accused members of his own party of being “petrified” of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

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Media captionTrump: ‘You’re afraid of the NRA’

The Republican president said the NRA has “great power over you people”, but “less power over me”.

However, Mr Trump himself came under pressure from the country’s top gun lobby not to change existing legislation.

Following his repeated calls to raise the age limit, a representative for the gun lobby visited the White House earlier this month.

Afterwards, chief NRA lobbyist Chris Cox tweeted he had a “great meeting”, and the president and vice-president “don’t want gun control”.

The NRA is suing Florida after it passed a gun control law which raises the legal age for buying rifles to 21. The lobby argues the bill violates the US constitution.

Chuck Schumer, leader of the opposition Democrats in the Senate, tweeted that the White House’s action plan amounts to “baby steps”.

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

Survivors of the Florida shooting have been pressing for a complete ban on sales of assault-style rifles to the public.


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