Trump backs off on assault rifle curbs

President Donald Trump

Washington: The White House on Sunday pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers and reiterated its call to improve the background check system as part of a new plan to prevent school shootings.

But in a move sure to please the gun lobby, the plan does not include a push to increase the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons to 21, which President Donald Trump had repeatedly championed.

Instead, a new federal commission on school safety will examine the age issue, as well as a long list of others topics, as part of a longer-term look at school safety and violence.

The plan forgoes an endorsement of comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, which the President, at times, seemed to embrace.

In a call with reporters on Sunday evening, administration officials described the plan as a fulfillment of Trump's call for action in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month that left 17 dead.

"Today we are announcing meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students," said education secretary Betsy DeVos, who will chair the commission.

DeVos said that "far too often, the focus" after such tragedies "has been only on the most contentious fights, the things that have divided people and sent them into their entrenched corners". She described the plan as "pragmatic".

The plan was immediately panned by gun control advocates, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

"Americans expecting real leadership to prevent gun violence will be disappointed and troubled by President Trump's dangerous retreat from his promise," said Avery Gardiner, the group's co-president.

Senator Bob Casey called the plan "weak on security and an insult to the victims of gun violence". In a statement, he added, "When it comes to keeping our families safe, it's clear that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are all talk and no action." AP


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