‘Will aid arming of U.S. school staff’

White House to step up assistance to States that want to arm employees

Updated - March 12, 2018 10:46 pm IST

Published - March 12, 2018 10:45 pm IST - Washington

 A protest calling for greater gun control in Somerville, Massachusetts.

A protest calling for greater gun control in Somerville, Massachusetts.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration will step up aid to States that want to arm school employees under a plan to increase campus safety after the killing of 17 people in Florida, officials said on Sunday.

The controversial idea to put weapons in schools, which has drawn little support from educators, is part of a “pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety and to take steps to do so right away”, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a conference call with reporters.

Safety commission

“We are committed to working quickly because there’s no time to waste,” said Ms. DeVos, who will chair a federal commission on school safety. The safety commission will include teachers and other experts.

They will examine “the issue of age for purchasing firearms” and related matters before making recommendations to the President, the senior administration official said.

Among other measures, the Trump administration is urging States to pass temporary “risk protection orders”, as Florida recently did, with technical assistance coming from Washington, said Andrew Bremberg, a presidential assistant who heads the Domestic Policy Council.

These court-issued orders allow for law enforcement officers to remove guns from people who pose a demonstrated threat, “to temporarily prevent such individuals from purchasing new firearms, all while still protecting due process rights”, he said.

The moves come during a national gun control debate revived by survivors of last month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 14 students and three staff were gunned down by a man with a semi-automatic rifle.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, on Twitter dismissed the administration’s measures as “baby steps designed not to upset @NRA”, the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest professional union in the United States, has said that parents and educators “overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff”.

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