Trump’s ‘unbelievable’ notes for meeting with shooting victims
A MEETING with survivors of the Florida high school shooting was bound to be emotional and Donald Trump's notes reveal he was well-prepped in his response.
A photo showing the US President's personal notes appears to list potential questions and responses for a "listening session" he held with students.
The first point states: "What would you most want me to know about your experience?" Other points are obscured but the fifth and final point says simply: "I hear you".
The backlash on social media was swift, with many wondering why the President needs notes to remind him to be empathetic. He was also criticised for considering the possiblity of arming teachers as a way of protecting students from gunmen.
A complete stranger to naturally triggered empathy, Trump's notes to help speak with students & parents contains the coached phrase "I hear you." https://t.co/tjzmHIyMa6— Ryan H. Walsh (@JahHills) February 22, 2018
Mr Trump hosted an emotional meeting with parents, teachers and students at the White House, including people affected by school shootings in Parkland, Florida, Columbine, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut.
Ahead of the meeting the White House said Mr Trump was aiming to "host a conversation on how to improve school safety".
It comes after a school shooting on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida killed 17 people. Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
The shooting has stirred anger among Americans, particularly the families who lost loved ones. Mr Trump listened intently to the raw emotion and pledged action, including the possibility of arming teachers.
Mr Trump said he was considering backing proposals to promote concealed carrying of weapons by trained school employees to respond to campus shootings before law enforcement arrives.
He said the average school shooting lasted three minutes, while police response times averaged from five to eight minutes.
He said he believes the proposal could "solve the problem" of school shootings, by making potential attackers think twice. He notes that some airline pilots have carried concealed weapons since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
But many online thought the plan to arm teachers was ridiculous and some teachers also said they didn't want to carry guns.
I’m a teacher. I don’t want to carry a gun. I want the people responsible for my safety, and my students’ safety, to do their jobs and make our workspace safe.— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) February 21, 2018
Mr Trump offered his thanks to the teary-eyed group of about 40 in the State Dining Room, saying "the world is watching."
Trump listened as parents called for arming trained school employees to react to shootings, and as one survivor delivered an impassioned plea to ban the rifle used by the shooter in last week's massacre in Florida.
Trump told them: "There can be nothing worse than what you've gone through."
He said he was exploring strengthening background checks and raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles.
"I turned 18 the day after" the shooting, said a tearful Samuel Zeif, a student at the Florida high school where a former student's assault left 17 dead last week.
"Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. And I don't understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war. An AR. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How do we not stop this after Columbine? After Sandy Hook?"
The latest school shooting has prompted a renewed and growing call for stronger gun control. Mr Trump invited his guests to suggest solutions and solicited feedback. He did not fully endorse any specific policy solution, but pledged to take action and expressed interest in widely differing approaches.
Besides considering concealed carrying of weapons by trained school employees, a concept he has endorsed in the past, he said he planned to go "very strongly into age, age of purchase." And he said he was committed to improving background checks and working on mental health.
Most in the group were emotional but quiet and polite.
But Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed last week, noted the previous school massacres and raged over his loss, saying this moment isn't about gun laws but about fixing the schools.
"It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I'm pissed. Because my daughter, I'm not going to see again," said Pollack. "King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now."
A strong supporter of gun rights, Trump has nonetheless indicated in recent days that he is willing to consider ideas not in keeping with National Rifle Association orthodoxy, including age restrictions for buying assault-type weapons.
Still, gun owners are a key part of his base of supporters.
Also present at the meeting were Darrell and Sandra Scott, whose daughter was killed in the Columbine shooting, and Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, who lost children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
Students and parents from the Washington area also were present.
The student body president at the Parkland school, Julia Cordover, tearfully told Trump that she "was lucky enough to come home from school." She added: "I am confident you will do the right thing."
Not all the students impacted by the shooting came to the White House. David Hogg, who has been one of the students actively calling for gun control was invited but declined, said his mother Rebecca Boldrick.
"His point was (Trump needs) to come to Parkland, we're not going there," she said.
Throughout the day Wednesday, television news showed footage of student survivors of the violence marching on the Florida state Capitol, calling for tougher laws. The protests came closer to Trump, too, with hundreds of students from suburban Maryland attending a rally at the Capitol and then marching to the White House.
Inside the executive mansion, Trump said at the end of an hour listening to tales of pain and anguish, "Thank you for pouring out your hearts because the world is watching and we're going to come up with a solution."
Television personality Geraldo Rivera had dinner with Trump at his private Palm Beach club over the weekend and described Trump as "deeply affected" by his visit Friday with Parkland survivors.
In an email, Rivera said he and Trump discussed the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase assault-type weapons. Trump "suggested strongly that he was going to act to strengthen background checks," Rivera said.
Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Jeff Flake said Wednesday they would introduce a bill to raise the minimum age required to purchase rifles from gun dealers, including assault weapons such as the AR-15.
"A kid too young buy a handgun should be too young to buy an #AR15," Flake said on Twitter. A buyer must be 21 to purchase a handgun.
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment. Trump embraced gun rights during his presidential campaign, though he supported some gun control before he became a candidate, backing an assault weapons ban and a longer waiting period to purchase a gun in a 2000 book.
On Tuesday, Trump directed the Justice Department to move to ban devices like the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last year's Las Vegas massacre.
The White House has also said Trump was looking at a bill that would strengthen federal gun background checks.
But those moves have drawn criticism as being inadequate, with Democrats questioning whether the Justice Department even has authority to regulate bump stocks and arguing that the background check legislation would not go far enough.