President Trump said Wednesday the administration is going to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and “put a strong emphasis on mental health,” as he promised students and families “we are going to get it done.”
The president, Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hosted students, teachers and families affected by the Parkland high school shooting for a “listening session”at the White House Wednesday.
Exactly one week ago, 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz opened fire at the high school and now is charged with killing 17 teachers and students with an AR-15 rifle.
“We are going to be very strong on background checks, and put a very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody,” Trump said at the beginning of the listening session. “We’re going to talk and get it done. It’s been going on too long, too many instances and we’re going to get it done.”
Students and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, along with Parkland city Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, attended the White House Session, along with members of Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic Dec. 14, 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Students from Friendship Public Charter School, Parkmont, and Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, D.C. also attended.
Parkland Student Body President Julia Cordover opened the session with emotional remarks for the group.
“I’m a survivor. I want you all to emphasize the point that I survived,” Cordover said. “I was lucky enough to come home from school and it is very scary to know that a lot of people did not have the opportunity to be here.”
Cordover thanked the president for addressing bump stocks this week.
The president directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create new regulations to ban firearm modifiers, including the “bump stock” used in the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017.
A memo released by the White House earlier this week directed the DOJ to propose a rule “banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.”
The president has also signaled a willingness to raise the minimum age for purchasing certain firearms in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland.
A White House source told Fox News Wednesday that Trump is open to a number of measures to address mass shootings, including the rise in minimum age – a proposal that could face massive resistance from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
Under current federal law, licensed firearm dealers cannot sell handguns to people under 21 and cannot sell long guns to people under 18, according to the Giffords Law Center, which tracks gun laws and advocates for more restrictions. Some states already impose laws with tighter minimum age requirements.
It is unclear, however, whether Trump will push for a change in federal law, or encourage a change at the state level.
The president has expressed support for the Second Amendment and said he’s against reflexive gun control measures that wouldn’t stop tragedies. The NRA endorsed Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and has yet to comment on the president’s current stance on gun control.
“Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
The listening session, Trump’s openness to tightening age restrictions, and the directive to the Justice Department reflect a different response from the White House than in the aftermath of previous tragedies.
Following the Las Vegas massacre, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that it was “premature to discuss policy when we don’t know all the facts,” and added, “we can have those policy conversations, but today is not the day.”
Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott also is slated to meet with students from Parkland Wednesday evening.
Fox News’ John Roberts and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.