President 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 high school shooting for a “listening session” at the White House 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, Connecticut 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 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 NRA 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 on 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.
India: Head of ‘world’s largest family’ Ziona Chana dies – leaving behind 39 wives and 94 children | World News
A man said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in northeastern India.
Ziona Chana had 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren – all of whom lived together in a four-storey pink house with about 100 rooms in Baktawng in Mizoram state.
The 76-year-old was the leader of a local Christian sect, named Chana, founded by his father in 1942 and with a current membership of hundreds of families.
Ziona married his first wife when he was 17 and claimed he once married 10 women in a year.
They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.
The chief minister of Mizoram confirmed his death on Twitter, saying the village of Baktawng had become a “major tourist attraction” because of the family.
With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count Mr Chana’s grandchildren.
In a 2011 interview with Reuters, Ziona said: “I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry.
“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”
Vladimir Putin: ‘Where is the proof’ Russia is waging a cyber war against the United States? | World News
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has denied claims his country is waging a cyber war against the United States.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, the Russian president rebuffed accusations Russian hackers, or the government itself, is using technological warfare against America – as baseless.
He said claims his country was involved in cyber attacks had become “farcical”, asking: “Where is the evidence? Where is the proof?”
“We have been accused of all kinds of things: election interference, cyber attacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof,” he said.
Evidence has been put forward by US intelligence services of Russian hackers targeting the federal government and meddling in US elections.
Mr Putin also denied ordering the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Pressed on whether he had any involvement, he said: “Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president.”
Russian intelligence services have been accused of poisoning Mr Navalny, who survived the incident but now remains in a Russian prison.
Asked whether the former opposition leader would make it out of prison alive, Mr Putin said: “He will not be treated any worse than anybody else.”
Mr Putin’s comments come just two days before he and Joe Biden are due to sit down for talks in Geneva on Wednesday.
The US president will be fresh from his meeting with NATO leaders, who have signalled that Russia remains a security risk to Western allies.
In his interview with NBC, Mr Putin said Russia would be willing to engage with other countries including the US and would value “predictability and stability”.
The Russian president has made no secret that he supported Mr Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who he called “extraordinary” and “talented”.
Mr Putin and Mr Biden have had somewhat more rocky relations, with the current US president agreeing when asked whether he thought the Russian president was a killer.
When this was put to Mr Putin, he replied: “Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles. And none of it surprises me.”
Finke Desert Race crash: Spectator killed and two injured at Australian off-road event | World News
A man has died and two others have been injured after a car crashed into spectators during a race in Australia.
The car, which was taking part in the 285-mile (460km) Finke Desert Race, struck a group of people around 22 miles (35km) from the finish.
A 60-year-old man died at the scene.
A man in his 50s was seriously injured and taken to Alice Springs Hospital, while the driver, a woman in her 50s, suffered minor injuries, Northern Territory police confirmed.
Police have issued an appeal for information as they continue to investigate the circumstances.
Motorsport Australia issued a statement calling it “tragic news” and offering “sympathies to the families, friends and all those impacted”.
The governing body also said it would begin its own investigation and provide counselling to all competitors, officials and people associated with the race.
The track is described on its website as having a “reputation for being one of the most difficult off-road courses in one of the most remote places in the world”.
The two-day off-road, multi-terrain race for motorcycles, cars, buggies and quads through desert country between Alice Springs and the town of Aputula, also known as Finke, takes place every June.
The car section of the race has now been cancelled.
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