Trump holds listening session with Florida shooting survivors to discuss improving school safety

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump heard a series of heartfelt stories and pleas for change during a meeting Wednesday with people affected by school shootings.

Survivors and family members of victims of some of the nation’s highest-profile deadly school shootings, including the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were in attendance.

Andrew Pollack, a father of one of the 17 victims who died in last week’s Florida shooting, said he was speaking Wednesday because his daughter couldn’t.

“We as a country failed our children,” he said. “This shouldn’t happen.”

He asked how it was that America could protect its airports, its concerts, its embassies and even the elevators at the Department of Education, but not its schools.

“How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me. I’m not going to sleep until it is fixed. And Mr. President, we’ll fix it. Because I’m going to fix it. I’m not going to rest,” he said.

“My beautiful daughter, I’m never going to see her again. It’s simple. Let’s fix it,” he said.

Justin Gruber, 15, who was affected by the Parkland shooting, said he was born after Columbine, which marked a new era in history.

“I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace. There needs to be a significant change in this country. This has to never happen again,” he said. “People should be able to feel like when they go to school it can be safe. There needs to be a change. People need to feel safe. Parents shouldn’t have to go through the idea of losing their child.”

Trump responded to the series of emotional stories from the survivors and parents of victims from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by pledging to get to work on school shootings “two minutes” after the listening session.

“We don’t want others to go through the kind of pain you have gone through,” Trump said. “It wouldn’t be right.”

At the beginning of the event, the President pledged to “do something” about school shootings in the brief opening of his listening session.

“We are going to do something about this horrible situation that is going on,” Trump said. “I want to listen and then after I listen, we are going to get things done.”

Trump, flanked by the students, went around the room and shook hands before opening the event.

The event, hosted in the White House’s State Dining Room, brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence. The President — who was elected with the support of the National Rifle Association — has so far expressed support for regulating bump-fire stocks, which make it easier to fire rounds more quickly, and strengthening background checks for gun purchases.

During the listening session, Trump called for more mental institutions and hospitals and floated the idea of concealed carry for teachers and school staff.

“This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone,” Trump said.

“Gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us,’ ” he said.