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Trump on preventing mass shootings: ‘We’re going to get it done’

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President Donald 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, Fla., high school shooting for a “listening session” at the White House on Wednesday, which lasted close to two hours. 

Exactly one week ago, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, whom the president described as “a sick guy,” 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, Conn., 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 earlier in the 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 asked for suggestions to prevent school shootings, leaving the floor open to parents and teachers. 

A parent from Parkland High School suggested that a select few teachers, administrators, or other school employees volunteer to become a designated “undercover police officer,” to manage a potential tragedy prior to the arrival of first responders.

“If a tragedy strikes, can we wait for first responders to get to the campus minutes later?” the parent said. “The challenge becomes, once it starts, to end it as quickly as possible.”

The president said the administration would look “very strongly” at the option for “concealed carry” at schools, but acknowledged that “a lot of people will be opposed to it.”

“Concealed carry only works for people that are very adept at carrying a gun,” Trump said. “Where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them, go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun free zone.”

Trump added: “A gun-free zone to a maniac, they’re all cowards, it’s ‘let’s go in and attack because bullets aren’t coming at us.’”

The president said that an attack lasts, on average “three minutes.”

“It takes five to eight minutes for first responders. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end [the attack],” Trump said. “We are looking at that very strongly. A lot of people will be opposed to it. A lot of people are gonna like it.”

Trump suggested having “20 percent of your teaching force” representing the “type of talent” capable of concealed carry. Trump also floated the idea to add security, like former “marines, people who left the Air Force” to be “spread evenly throughout the school.”

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 on Wednesday that Trump is open to a number of measures to address mass shootings, including a rise in the minimum age for buying firearms.

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.

The National Rifle Association quickly rejected any talk of raising the age for buying long guns to 21.

“Legislative proposals that prevent law-abiding adults aged 18-20 years old from acquiring rifles and shotguns effectively prohibits them for purchasing any firearm, thus depriving them of their constitutional right to self-protection,” the group said in a statement.

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 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.

“In addition to what we’re going to with background checks, we’re going to go very strong into age of purchase, and very strongly into the mental health aspect of what’s going on,” Trump said. “This person, who was very sick, and people knew he was very sick. We’re also going to look at the institutions, what you do when you find someone like this.” 

He added: “All I can say is we’re fighting hard for you and we will not stop. I grieve for you. There can be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through. Thank you for pouring out your hearts because the world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution.” 

Fox News’ John Roberts and Alex Pappas contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.



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'Scientific criteria apply!' Macron ally urges EU member states to NOT use Russian vaccine

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EMMANUEL MACRON’s closest ally, Clement Beaune, attracted criticism at home and from Russia after he urged EU member states not to use Moscow’s Sputnik V vaccine.

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Domestic workers fight to be included in the Covid recovery

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When the coronavirus pandemic began to upend daily life a year ago, Joyce Barnes was among the essential workers for whom remote work wasn’t an option.

Barnes, 62, of Virginia has been a home care worker for over 30 years. With wages just above the federal minimum and no paid sick leave, she scrounged for personal protective gear to help shield her from the virus as she took care of elderly and handicapped patients.

“It was like a choice: ‘Do I work today? Or be short on my paycheck?’ I know I’m not feeling good, but what should I do?” she said in a phone interview. “You have no choice but to keep going and praying.”

Despite the risks associated with domestic labor — which is likely to take place indoors and in close proximity to other people — domestic workers like Barnes were among those most likely to fall through the cracks as Congress debated economic relief measures.

“We are the forgotten ones,” Barnes said. “And this is why we have to fight.”

Women of color make up 52 percent of the domestic labor force, which numbers about 2 million in the U.S., including caregivers, cleaners, nannies and other workers, according to a report last year from the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute. Undocumented immigrants are also about 20 percent of the workforce, which the report suggested could be an undercount.

Those groups are disproportionately at risk for severe illness and death related to Covid-19.

Because much of the work is in the cash economy, experts say, the labor data aren’t fully captured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It also makes it more difficult to qualify for unemployment pay, a key part of congressional recovery efforts.

Domestic workers were struggling even before the onset of the pandemic. Paid less and covered by fewer labor protections, they are three times as likely to live in poverty as other workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Less than 20 percent have access to basic health care.

Ai-Jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to raise labor standards for the workforce, said the organization found in January that 40 percent of domestic workers didn’t have jobs. A third of those who did work earned less than $10 an hour, she said.

“The numbers speak for themselves, but behind every number is a person who is probably a primary income earner for their family, probably a mother of young children, and a life that is struggling in, literally, like, a nightmare of impossible choices for themselves and their families,” Poo said.

Domestic worker organizations like hers have continued to organize and raise awareness for the past year, and their work appears to be bearing fruit.

Virginia is poised to pass a bill that would include a number of protections for domestic workers — what advocates call a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. It has been passed in other states, such as New York and California, but it is the first of its kind in the South.

“That bill of rights would bring domestic workers into all existing workplace protections that every other worker in Virginia has access to when it comes to workplace discrimination, harassment, being protected and safe at the job, making sure that you have access to compensation if you’re injured at work, and making sure that the state has the responsibility and the authority to set safety standards for what a safe workplace looks like for domestic workers,” said Alexsis Rodgers, the Virginia state director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

As a new administration in the White House emphasizes equity, domestic workers, who are often left in the shadows, also feel hopeful that a new round of Covid-19 relief could reach them.

“I would say the shift is that people feel seen,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union. “Those gaps have not been closed, but we feel like we’re working together with the highest level of government to close the gaps in every community.”

But, Rodgers said, there are still challenges to getting relief to undocumented domestic workers.

“Nobody was asking their status when they were being told to pay taxes. Nobody was asking their status when they’re participating in our economy in other ways,” Rodgers said. “We need to make sure that we are bringing those workers into the fold now that we have an administration that understands that this work is important.”

Lenka Mendoza, 43, a domestic worker advocate in Virginia, has spent nearly two decades cleaning homes and hotels, and well as working as a nanny. She said in a phone interview that she has seen firsthand how undocumented workers were left on their own.

Mendoza, who speaks Spanish, recalled through a translator how she and other advocates helped colleagues who had been laid off and became homeless. She said getting the bill passed in Virginia is the top priority, along with making sure Congress follows through.

“Now we’re giving our sisters and brothers a more dignified work environment that’s respected and better paid,” she said through her translator. “And before that, there was nothing to protect them from discrimination, from mistreatment in the workforce from getting not getting paid or low pay.”

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EU plunged into crisis as Austria rejects key trade pact – shames bloc's green credentials

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AUSTRIA will block the EU’s landmark trade agreement with the Mercosur bloc of South American countries in another blow for the pact.

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