President Trump held a televised “listening session” today to discuss ways to keep schools safe following last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, when 17 people were killed, allegedly by 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, who purchased his AR-15 legally, though he is not old enough to buy a handgun in the state.
Among those attending were high school students sick of the “thoughts and prayers” that came their way after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, same as the “thoughts and prayers” for the victims at Sandy Hook – and victims of the mass shooting at Columbine in Denver, which happened before the Parkland students were born. Some of today’s participants were parents who lost children in both of those massacres, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Donald Trump Seeks Court Order To Block Release Of Tax Returns To House Committee
Watch on Deadline
But by far the most impactful speaker was Andrew Pollack whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was among those murdered.
“My daughter has no voice, she was murdered last week, and she was taken from us – shot nine times on the third floor,” Pollack said.
“We as country failed our children,” Pollack savaged. “This shouldn’t happen. We go to an airport, I can’t get on plane with a bottle of water, but we leave it to some animal to walk into a school and shoot our children. It’s not right!”
“We need to come together as a country and work on what’s important. And that’s protecting our children in the schools. That’s the only thing that matters right now.”
“We protect airports. We protect concerts, stadiums, embassies,” Pollack noted. “The Department of Education that I walked into today, that has a security guard in the elevator – how do you think that makes me feel?! In the elevator, they have a security guard!”
“I’m very angry that this happened. Because it keeps happening. 9/11 happened once — and they fixed everything. How many children have to get shot?…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…King David Cemetery, that’s where I go to see my kid now.”
One of the school’s surviving students, Sam Zeif begged Trump, “I want to feel safe at school…I don’t know how I’m ever going to set foot in that place again…I turned 18 the day after. I don’t know why I can still go into a store and buy a weapon of war. How can this happen after Columbine, and Sandy Hook?”
Trump vaguely promised he is “going to be very strong on background checks, very strong on mental health.. and going to do plenty of other things,” noting he’s meeting with governors next week to discuss school safety and it’s “not going to be talk like it has in the past. This has gone on too long.”
“Background checks are going to be very strong and, when we see there is trouble, we have to nab them. Years ago we had hospitals and mental institutions and a lot of them have closed. Trump described Cruz as “a sick guy” who “should have been nabbed several times.”
Trump seemed most strongly to advocate the idea of arming school teachers, coaches and staff with concealed weapons, explaining “gun-free zones, to maniacs, because they’re all cowards” are places gunmen like to attack because they won’t take return fire.
“I really believe if these cowards knew the school was well guarded.. they wouldn’t go to school to start with. That could solve your problem.”
“A lot of people don’t understand, airline pilots – a lot of them now carry guns” post 9/11, Trump said. “Maybe you have the same situation in schools.”
While Trump was making his suggestions from the White House, in Broward County, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located, Sheriff Scott Israel announced he would issue rifles to deputies assigned to local public schools.
The previous day, grief-stricken Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students watched as their state lawmakers voted 71-36 against a measure to consider a ban on semi-automatic weapons like that allegedly used by Cruz. CNN noted legislators did, however, declare pornography to be a public health risk.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.