After Florida Shooting, Trump Meets With Students And Teachers

Feb 21, 2018
Originally published on February 22, 2018 9:03 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It was one week ago today that 17 people were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Today, students from that school were among those invited to the White House to meet with President Trump and discuss school safety. The father of a student killed in Parkland also was there. Andrew Pollack spoke of his anger at losing his 18-year-old daughter, Meadow.

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ANDREW POLLACK: It stops here with this administration and me. I'm not going to sleep until it's fixed. And, Mr. President, we're going to fix it 'cause I'm going to fix it.

KELLY: All right, we're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Obviously an incredibly emotional, raw scene unfolding at the White House today - do we know exactly how that conversation did unfold?

HORSLEY: It was raw. As you said, this was just a week ago that some of these students were sitting in classrooms hearing gunfire, in some cases losing loved ones. And one young man said it doesn't even feel as if it's been a week. He said it feels like time is just standing still.

Sometimes it felt as if time was standing still in this debate, too, because there were parents in this meeting who lost children in Sandy Hook in 2012 and at Columbine High School. We heard from Justin Gruber, who was one of the students at the Florida high school, who's 15 years old. He was born four years after Columbine. And he said he's never known a world without school shootings.

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JUSTIN GRUBER: I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace. There needs to be a significant change in this country.

KELLY: Scott Horsley, we mentioned that the stated agenda for today's meeting was school safety. It wasn't necessarily about guns. How much of the question and answer in the listening session did in fact focus on gun regulations?

HORSLEY: This was a wide-ranging discussion. It wasn't one of those sort of carefully choreographed meetings where everyone's there to make a particular point. The conversation ranged all over the map. We heard from Julie (ph) Cordover, who's a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who talked about some of the recommendations the president has made.

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JULIA CORDOVER: I really appreciate you, like, hosting me. And what you are saying - I'm confident that you do the right thing. And I appreciate you looking at the bump stocks yesterday. That means - it is definitely a step in the right direction. And I think we can all agree on that.

HORSLEY: That's the recommendation the president made yesterday for ATF to look at reining in the add-on to weapons that make a semiautomatic weapon perform more like an automatic weapon that was used in the Las Vegas shooting. But we also heard a father who said, you know, let's focus on hardening school buildings and save the gun debate for another day. The president talked about improving background checks. We heard frustration about the FBI not responding to some of the warning signs that were present in the Florida case. So this was kind of all over the place.

KELLY: Although, one constant theme, it sounds like, is parents and students saying, we need to fix this. We need to change - a lot of focus on that idea of change. Did the president endorse any other specific actions today? How did he answer those calls?

HORSLEY: You know, he was noncommittal, I would say. He did talk about improving background checks. But he said he wanted to hear a wide range of ideas. And he said, we're going to take the best of those ideas and run with them. And then he offered up an idea that has been getting some play in conservative circles. And he said, what do you think about maybe not having schools be gun-free zones?

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Gun-free zone to a maniac - because they're all cowards - a gun-free zone is, let's go in, and let's attack because bullets aren't coming back at us. And if you do this - and a lot of people are talking about it. It's certainly a point that we'll discuss. But concealed carry for teachers and for people of talent - of that type of talent...

HORSLEY: The president acknowledged this is a controversial idea. And indeed when he polled the people in the room, he heard a lot of opponents - the idea of putting even more guns in schools.

KELLY: Thank you, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Scott Horsley reporting on the meeting today at the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.