Trump’s statement recalled an emotional “listening session” held at the White House in the days after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting, in which a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“We learned a lot that afternoon,” the statement said. The president heard from the school shooting survivors and parents who were invited to share their thoughts about gun control as the president held a note card reminding himself to listen.
“We took immediate action, committing ourselves to a sacred vow to do everything in our power to ensure that evil does not stalk our children on the playgrounds or in the hallways of our Nation’s schools,” Trump continued in Thursday’s statement.
In the immediate aftermath of Parkland, Trump had initially expressed support for the type of strict gun legislation the National Rifle Association has long opposed, but abandoned those promises just a couple weeks later. He has since expressed support for more guns in schools ― including an effort to arm some teachers ― earning criticism from a vocal sector of Parkland students who were moved to fight against the powerful gun lobby.
The critics, including David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez, said they were not invited to the White House listening session. They went on to lead a nationwide gun control protest, March for Our Lives, in late March of last year.
In Thursday’s statement, the president touted his support for the STOP
School Violence Act, a bipartisan measure to finance school safety training and security equipment, along with a measure to strengthen the national criminal background check system. Neither is a gun control measure. The Trump administration did tighten gun control in late 2018 by enacting a ban on bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic weapons to mimic machine guns, but that effort was not a response to Parkland.
A December report issued by the Federal Commission on School Safety, convened by the Trump administration, downplayed the role of guns in school violence, instead focusing on rolling back certain Obama-era policies. The report also recommended arming some teachers and improving mental health care in schools.
Gun legislation has largely stalled at the federal level due to Republican opposition. Yet some progress has been made at the state level. More than half of states passed at least one gun control measure in 2018, according to the Giffords advocacy group.
Around 1,200 kids have been shot to death since the Parkland incident, according to a joint reporting project from The Trace and the Miami Herald.