Trump: Teacher guns 'Up to States'

His tweet depicts evolving position

Posted: February 25, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump appeared Saturday to begin refining his proposals for confronting school violence, tweeting that arming teachers as a deterrent -- an idea he championed in recent days -- is "Up to States."

Trump heavily promoted the idea of putting "gun-adept" teachers and staff members carrying concealed firearms in classrooms and schools to protect students after this month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people, most of them students.

He called for bonuses for educators who volunteer to carry firearms, and said he also wanted action to strengthen background checks and boost the minimum age for the purchase of firearms.

Expectations were raised that Trump would propose federal legislation on arming teachers, but that no longer appeared to be the case Saturday.

"Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again - a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States," Trump tweeted.

The White House has yet to offer a complete plan to address school violence as the public outcry sparked by the Florida shooting arose, including addressing who would bear the financial cost.

Asked on Thursday whether the federal government or state and local municipalities would pay the millions of dollars it would cost to train and arm teachers, White House spokesman Raj Shah said "the policy hasn't been fleshed out," adding, "Do we really think that that's too much to pay for school safety?"

The national discussion over guns continued Saturday at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, with governors acknowledging that public anger and student activism after the latest school shooting has shifted the debate over guns. But they are skeptical that a bitterly divided Congress can unite on national legislation that might help prevent more tragedies.

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"There's no question we're in a different environment," said Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Tenn. "There's a lot of folks looking like, is it common sense to rule out someone to buy a beer at 20, but we'll let him buy an assault rifle?"

Democratic governors said they had little faith that Trump, who enjoyed support from the National Rifle Association during his 2016 campaign, would keep his word about trying to find a legislative response or that the issue would retain his attention.

"What can you trust coming out of the president's mouth on this particular issue? Particularly when you know that the NRA invested $30 million making sure he got elected," said Gov. Dannel Malloy, D-Conn., who dealt with the aftermath of the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown.

Even Republican leaders fretted about the prospects for progress in Congress, which failed to pass gun-control or background-check legislation after the Connecticut shooting and has long ground to a halt on issues such as health care and immigration.

Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, said Friday that he has convened a diverse group of advisers on gun policy to help him develop new approaches. He also said he was looking to raise Ohio's minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles like the one used in the Parkland shooting.

Governors are watching GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who announced Friday that he would seek to raise the minimum age for purchasing any firearm in Florida to 21, and strengthening rules meant to keep guns away from those with mental-health problems. They would mark the strongest gun-control laws in the state in decades, defying the NRA, but falling short of what gun-control advocates have demanded.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. became the latest companies to cut ties with the NRA after a call to boycott the lobbying group became a top trend Friday on Twitter. The online furor continued into the weekend after the NRA's leaders criticized the media and Democrats, claiming the fallout from the Florida massacre was being politicized.

One user, with almost 250,000 followers, tagged a slew of brands in his post, including NRA partners Hertz Corp. and LifeLock Inc. "There are only 5 million NRA members but over 300 million of us! Businesses have a choice whose business they prefer," tweeted another.

Delta and United, two of America's largest passenger carriers, said Saturday that they would back away from the group. Delta said in a statement that it was "ending its contract for discounted rates through our group travel program," and having its information removed from the group's website. United said it would no longer discount flights to the NRA's annual meeting. Their announcements followed similar moves Friday by security-systems makers Symantec Corp., owner of Lifelock, and Simplisafe Inc.; Hertz and fellow car-renter Avis Budget Group Inc.; movers North American Van Lines and Allied Van Lines; and insurer MetLife Inc.

"Symantec has stopped its discount program with the National Rifle Association," a spokesman said in an emailed statement. A MetLife spokesman said "we value all our customers but have decided to end our discount program with the NRA." Security systems maker Simplisafe Inc. also dropped the gun group.

The 5 million-member NRA has partnerships with dozens of businesses, ranging from car rentals to hotels, and even offers a branded credit card. First National Bank of Omaha, which backs the card, said it would not renew its contract. Enterprise Holdings Inc., which operates Alamo and National car rentals as well, said it had ended its participation effective March 26. Wyndham Hotel Group LLC announced it was "no longer affiliated with the NRA."

In a statement Friday, insurer Chubb said it told the NRA three months ago that it would "discontinue participation in the NRA Carry Guard insurance program under the terms of our contract."

On Saturday, Bank of America Corp. told Axios that it will "examine what we can do to help end the tragedy of mass shootings," and that it will engage with clients "that manufacture assault weapons for non-military use to understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility."

Some companies have no plans to alter their relationship with the NRA, while others with ties to the group didn't return requests for comment., unmoved by the controversy, said it would stick by the NRA.

"Our company provides discounted rooms to several large associations, including the NRA," said Tim Hentschel, co-founder of Hotel Planner. "These associations greatly benefit our customers by buying discounted rooms from groups that might otherwise be charged a penalty by hotels for not using all of the rooms in their block."

In an email Saturday, the NRA called the companies' actions "a shameful display of political and civic cowardice" and said the loss of corporate discounts and other perks "will neither scare nor distract" NRA members.

"In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve," the NRA statement said.

Florida's government also was facing a potential boycott and backlash as well. One teen survivor of the school shooting suggested in a tweet Saturday morning that tourists stay away from the state during the spring break season; he got immediate response on social media.

"Let's make a deal," David Hogg, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student who has been a major player in the #neveragain movement, tweeted. "DO NOT come to Florida for spring break unless gun legislation is passed."

Wendy Glaab, 60, of Fonthill, Ontario, was among the first to respond. "I like many Canadians travel to Florida from time to time to escape our winter. I can't speak for others but I will not be returning until meaningful gun control legislation is in place."

Trump spent several days last week hearing emotional pleas from parents and students, including some who survived the Parkland shooting, and others who had lost children in school shootings in Connecticut and Colorado. He also solicited input from state and local officials.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have said school safety will be a top agenda item when they meet with the nation's governors this week.

Information for this article was contributed by Darlene Superville, Ken Sweet, Damian Troise, Freida Frisaro, Ken Thomas, Zeke Miller and Alexandra Olson of The Associated Press; and by Polly Mosendz, Ivan Levingston, Katherine Chiglinsky, Brian Louis and Vishal Persaud of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 02/25/2018