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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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Brexit LIVE: EU's Covid shambles forces AstraZeneca into reconsidering vaccine future

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THE European Union’s shambolic handling of the Covid pandemic is forcing AstraZeneca to seriously consider its future in vaccines, in another move that goes a long way to vindicating Brexit.

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Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving senator, dies at 87

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DETROIT — Famous for gazing over eyeglasses worn on the end of his nose, Carl Levin seemed at ease wherever he went, whether attending a college football game back home in Michigan or taking on a multibillion-dollar corporation before cameras on Capitol Hill.

Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator had a slightly rumpled, down-to-earth demeanor that helped him win over voters throughout his 36-year career, as did his staunch support for the hometown auto industry. But the Harvard-educated attorney also was a respected voice on military issues, spending years leading the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

Despite his record tenure and status, he kept his role in perspective. At his direction, the portraits of all 38 senators who had served before or with him since Michigan’s statehood in 1837 were hung in his office conference room. Two empty spaces were reserved for future senators.

“I’m part of a long trail of people who have represented Michigan,” Levin said in 2008. “I’m just part of that history. The people coming after me … can pick up where I leave off, whoever they might be.”

The former taxi driver and auto-line worker, who for decades kept his faded 1953 union card in his wallet, died Thursday at 87. His family and the Levin Center at Wayne State University’s law school did not release a cause of death in an evening statement. He had been living with lung cancer since age 83.

“We are all devastated by his loss. But we are filled with gratitude for all of the support that Carl received throughout his extraordinary life and career, enabling him to touch so many people and accomplish so much good,” the statement said.

First elected to the Senate in 1978, Levin represented Michigan longer than any other senator, targeting tax shelters, supporting manufacturing jobs and pushing for military funding. His tenure was a testament to voters’ approval of the slightly rumpled, down-to-earth Detroit native whom Time magazine ranked among the nation’s 10 best senators in 2006.

“He’s just a very decent person,” Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a fellow Senate Armed Services Committee member, said in 2008. “He’s unpretentious, unassuming. He never forgets that what we’re doing is enmeshed with the lives of the people he represents.”

A Washington insider and former prosecutor known for his professorial bearing, Levin took a civil but straightforward approach that allowed him to work effectively with Republicans and fellow Democrats. He was especially astute on defense matters thanks to his years as the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And he didn’t fear speaking his mind.

He was in the minority — even among his Democratic Senate colleagues — when he voted against sending U.S. troops to Iraq in 2002, and two years later he said President George W. Bush’s administration had “written the book on how to mismanage a war.” He gave a cautious endorsement to President Barack Obama’s 2009 buildup of troops in Afghanistan, but later warned of “the beginnings of fraying” of Democratic support.

He was also critical of President Ronald Reagan’s buildup of nuclear weapons, saying it came at the expense of conventional weapons needed to maintain military readiness.

But, colleagues said, he almost always engendered a feeling of respect.

“We’ve always had a very trusting and respectful relationship,” the late-Republican Sen. John Warner, who worked closely for years with Levin on the Armed Services Committee, once said. “We do not try to pull surprises on each other. The security of the nation and the welfare of the armed services come first.”

Famous for wearing his eyeglasses down on his nose, Levin seemed to be the same candid, hardworking guy wherever he went, whether he was in front of cameras on Capitol Hill, on an overseas fact-finding mission or lost in the crowd of a college football stadium on game day.

“No one would accuse Carl Levin of looking like Hollywood’s version of a U.S. Senator. He’s pudgy, balding and occasionally rumpled, and he constantly wears his glasses at the very tip of his nose,” Time magazine said in its 2006 article ranking the senator among the country’s best. “Still, the Michigan Democrat has gained respect from both parties for his attention to detail and deep knowledge of policy, especially in his role as a vigilant monitor of businesses and federal agencies.”

A foe of fraud and waste, Levin led an investigation in 2002 into Enron Corp., which had declared bankruptcy the previous year amid financial scandals. The probe contributed to a new federal law that requires executives to sign off on financial statements so they could be criminally liable for posting phony numbers.

Levin pushed legislation designed to crack down on offshore tax havens, which he said cost the U.S. government at least $100 billion a year in lost taxes. He also was an advocate for stem cell research and gun control.

Closer to home, Levin promoted policies benefiting the auto industry and supported giving $25 billion in loan guarantees to General Motors and Chrysler. He argued that a vibrant domestic auto industry was crucial to rebuilding the economy after the Great Recession. He also was a member of a task force supporting efforts to fight pollution and other environmental problems affecting the Great Lakes.

“If you’ve ever worn the uniform, worked a shift on an assembly line, or sacrificed to make ends meet, then you’ve had a voice and a vote in Sen. Carl Levin,” Obama said in 2013. “No one has worked harder to bring manufacturing jobs back to our shores, close unfair tax loopholes and ensure that everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Carl Milton Levin was born in Detroit on June 28, 1934, and he stayed in the Motor City for most of his life. After high school, he spent time as a taxi driver and worked on auto assembly plant lines to help put himself through school.

Always proud of having helped build the DeSoto and Ford trucks at a plant in Highland Park, he held onto his United Auto Workers union membership card for decades. That ended when his wallet was stolen.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Swarthmore College in 1956, and a law degree from Harvard in 1959. He married his wife, Barbara, two years later, and together they raised three daughters.

Levin fell in line with his family’s strong sense of civic duty in 1964, when he was named an assistant state attorney general and the first general counsel for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. His older brother, former longtime U.S. Rep. Sander “Sandy” Levin, had a liberal voting record on many social issues, while their father served on the Michigan Corrections Commission, a citizens’ group that oversaw prison operations, and their mother volunteered for a Jewish organization.

Carl Levin once said that public service was in his DNA, and politics often was discussed at the dinner table when he was a boy.

He dove into public office when Detroit voters elected him to the City Council in 1969, and he served as its president before ousting a Republican to win the 1978 Senate race. He won the seat five more times but decided against running for a seventh term in 2014.

After his retirement, the Levin Center at Wayne Law was established to promote fact-based, bipartisan oversight by Congress and state legislatures and to encourage civil dialogue on public policy issues. He chaired the center and co-taught law courses. He also was a partner and distinguished counsel at the Honigman law firm in Detroit.

His memoir, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate,” was published in March. The Navy named a destroyer for him to honor his years of public service.

His nephew, Andy Levin, was reelected in 2020 to his father’s 9th Congressional District seat that represents parts of suburban Detroit.

“Carl Levin personified integrity and the notion of putting the public good above self-interest,” Andy Levin said, calling him “the very picture of sober purpose and rectitude. In truth, he wasn’t unfun. In fact, he often pierced tense situations with self-deprecating humor, and he privately shared incisive observations about others with staff and colleagues.”

evin is survived by his wife, their three adult daughters, Kate, Laura and Erica, and several grandchildren. There will be a private funeral. Information about a public memorial will be forthcoming.

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Why the White House seems to be playing catch-up on coronavirus messaging

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden found out about a significant move by his public health officials this week — one that created the most visible symbol yet of his setback in the battle against Covid-19 — around the same time the news was breaking on cable television.

Meanwhile, the Tuesday afternoon timing of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s official recommendation that individuals who are vaccinated might need to wear masks in some areas left White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who had repeatedly insisted in recent days that they did not, as the first public official to face questions on a policy shift White House officials had only recently learned of themselves.

“We are always going to be guided by our North Star, and that is the CDC and our health and medical experts,” she said in response to a crush of questions Monday, as rumors swirled ahead of the official announcement.

Throughout the White House, the swift policy change caught staffers by surprise, but the dynamic was far from unfamiliar: Since Biden took office, much of the decision-making and messaging around pandemic policy has been in the hands of public health officials, not politicians — a hands-off approach that has at times left his White House scrambling to find its footing in the wake of some of the agency’s most consequential moves.

It’s a stark reversal from the Trump administration, which was accused by some members of its own coronavirus task force of interfering in public health decisions and releasing false information that contradicted the messaging from CDC officials.

But it’s an approach that has come with its own set of drawbacks.

It has fallen on the White House to deal with the aftermath of confusing messages out of the agency on whether schools can reopen if teachers aren’t vaccinated or if it’s safe for vaccinated people to travel.

When peppered with questions about why restrictions are still in place for travel to many countries, a decision that has frustrated the tourism industry and Americans with family abroad, the White House has deferred to its public health officials, who haven’t provided a clear rationale.

Now, medical experts say this week’s announcement that vaccinated people might need to put their masks back on has suffered from the same lack of clear, unified messaging that plagued the spring guidance that they could take them off — leading to a similar swell of public confusion.

“This has been a consistent problem with the CDC,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner. “The same thing happens back in May, where they got the science right but the policy and communications really confused. And that directly led to where we are today.”

While the CDC and West Wing are in near-daily contact, administration officials said the timing of the mask announcement was driven by the agency.

“We are dealing with a constantly changing virus, evolving and mutating and generating new threats,” one official said. “When that happened in 2020, politics and preferred messaging trumped public health, with a president who buried his head in the sand at best and overruled or contradicted public health leaders at worst. The science is the science, and thank God we follow it because lives are at stake here.”

But so, perhaps, is Biden’s presidency. The gap between White House hopes and the CDC’s hard reality has come into especially sharp relief over the course of the past week, as a cascade of events have left the “summer of freedom” Biden predicted in June, and potentially his wider agenda, increasingly under threat.

Covid cases have spiked due to the rapidly spreading delta variant. New data indicates that even vaccinated people may be able to spread the virus. The number of new daily vaccine doses delivered has plateaued at levels far below spring highs.

And the virus’s continued threat has hit home for Biden in recent days with infections in a fully vaccinated White House staffer, an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a group of Texas state representatives who visited with Vice President Kamala Harris.

During a presidential trip to Pennsylvania on Tuesday, White House officials found themselves trying to determine if the Mack Trucks plant he was touring was in a “yellow zone,” which would allow him to remain mask-free, or an “orange zone,” which would have required him to don a face covering in public for the first time in two months.

(A CDC map with county-level data based on weekly averages from three days ago indicated it was yellow, though the neighboring county was orange.)

Back in Washington, the White House was nearing the end of a month that began with an “independence from the virus” bash with a far more subdued tone.

Just over an hour after the CDC’s mask announcement on Tuesday, a White House aide began handing out masks to reporters planning to cover an event with the vice president, telling them that Washington, D.C., now fell into the category of “substantial” risk areas where the CDC advised mask use.

At the event, Harris sounded a frustrated note.

“Nobody likes wearing a mask,” she said. “Get vaccinated.”

By the end of the day, the entire West Wing was again masked — including the president.

The abrupt policy directives from public health officials within the administration have left the White House visibly struggling with how to respond to the evolving dynamic around the pandemic.

“It is really a challenge, because of course we want to support the CDC, and you don’t want people to lose trust in the CDC,” Wen said. “But it makes our job as public health leaders much harder, because we are now trying to defend a message from the CDC that is convoluted and confusing.”

In the absence of a coordinated administration push on mask guidance changes this week, Republicans quickly moved to fill the void, calling the announcement an overreaction, government overreach and a politically driven move.

“Don’t surrender to COVID. Don’t go back! Why do Democrats distrust the science?” former President Donald Trump, who refused to wear a mask even before he was vaccinated, said in a statement to supporters. “Don’t let this happen to our children or our Country.”

The public marks for Biden’s handling of the pandemic have dipped just slightly since May to 59 percent approving of the job he is doing and 35 percent disapproving, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average.

But the rise in Covid cases in recent weeks has appeared to contribute to a rising pessimism among Americans, according to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, which found 55 percent of Americans saying they’re pessimistic about the year ahead, versus 45 percent who say they’re optimistic. That’s a sharp reversal from April, when 64 percent said they were optimistic about the next year, while 36 percent said they were pessimistic.

Amid the souring public mood, administration officials defended their pandemic messaging approach.

“Last year, when things changed and cases spiked, the consequences of inaction or conflict or overruling experts were thousands of dead Americans,” the administration official said. “We aren’t going to let that happen.”

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