Donald Trump has said there is “not much political support” for raising the minimum age to purchase certain guns, as the White House backpedalled on imposing a gun control measure that the President publicly backed.
In a plan to prevent school shootings, the Trump administration has left the issue of arming teachers up to states and local communities, and backed away from raising the age limit to buy assault-style weapons – two ideas that Mr Trump said he favoured last month.
But the age issue has put the President at odds with the nation’s largest gun-rights lobbying group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and certain fellow Republicans.
The NRA, wich spent more than $11m (£7.91m) supporting Mr Trump during the 2016 election, sued the state of Florida last week over a new gun law signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott, banning the purchase of firearms by anyone under the age of 21, claiming it was unconstitutional.
The law also allows the arming and training of school staff and introduced a three-day waiting period on all gun sales and a ban on bump stocks, a device that enables semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds a minute.
“ On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision,” Mr Trump said in a tweet. “Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”
....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).— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
He also reiterated his support for strengthening background checks, arming school officials and banning bump stocks.
“Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!” Mr Trump tweeted.
During a press briefing, reporters asked White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly why Mr Trump was not pushing forward his proposal to increase the age limit for buying certain guns even though the idea appears to have a lot of public support.
“He’s making sure that the things we can do right now, we’re actually doing. Instead of holding some of those pieces back… we’re working through the process to see what we can do to get the other things done,” Ms Sanders said.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Monday pushed back against the idea of arming teachers with assault-style weapons.
“I don’t think assault weapons in schools, carried by any school personnel, is the appropriate thing,” Ms DeVos said in an interview with NBC.
A new federal commission chaired by Ms DeVos will examine the age issue as part of the White House’s plan to prevent school shootings. Administration officials have already had to defend the new commission, after the President panned such policy groups over the weekend, saying “we can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees” as all they do are “talk, talk, talk”.
In the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month that left 17 people dead, Mr Trump has hosted several roundtables aimed at finding a solution to gun violence.
Stunning many, he also announced his support for certain gun-control measures that are opposed by the NRA, but many Republicans in Congress have not followed suit.
Additionally, Democrats have said the pieces of gun control legislation that appear the most likely to pass in Congress do not do enough to address gun violence.
Ms DeVos has called the White House’s proposal “meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students”. She said on Monday said the plan was “the first step in a more lengthy process.”
No deadline has been set for the commission’s recommendations. However, officials expect them to be published in less than a year.
When asked why the White House has backed away from Mr Trump’s support for increasing the age to buy assault-style weapons, Ms DeVos said that “everything is on the table”.
She also stressed that the commission would study a wide range of issues, but that it should be up to states to decide whether to arm teachers.
“This is an issue that is best decided by local communities and by states,” DeVos said on NBC. “It’s not going to be appropriate in every location, but it is going to be appropriate in some places.”
The White House’s proposal has already been criticised by gun control advocates.
.@WhiteHouse has taken tiny baby steps designed not to upset @NRA when the #gunviolence epidemic demands giant steps be taken. @SenateDems will push to go further: passing universal #backgroundchecks, actual fed legislation on protection orders & a debate on #AssaultWeaponsBan.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 12, 2018
“Americans expecting real leadership to prevent gun violence will be disappointed and troubled by President Trump’s dangerous retreat from his promise,” said Avery Gardiner, the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer it as “tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken”.