WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is backing off on some of his gun proposals, including raising the purchase age for rifles, and instead will try to encourage states to take action while creating a federal Commission on School Safety to make longer-range policy recommendations.
Justice Department grants would be given to train "specially qualified school personnel on a voluntary basis" to carry guns, according to an outline of the plan provided to reporters Sunday evening.
The proposal, officially released Monday and lacking details, also seeks to encourage states to set up "Extreme Risk Protection Orders," that would allow law enforcement to seek court approval to remove firearms from people deemed a threat.
That idea was included in the Florida Legislature's sweeping school safety and gun bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Friday. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are already proposing federal incentives for what they call gun violence restraining orders.
The Trump plan also calls for reviews to determine if changes are needed to improve coordination between mental health professionals and school officials or law enforcement.
But largely, Trump would leave bigger details, such as gun restrictions, to the Commission on School Safety, which will be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and represents a departure from the urgency the president has expressed is needed after the Parkland shooting.
"Americans expecting real leadership to prevent gun violence will be disappointed and troubled by President Trump's dangerous retreat from his promise to break the Washington gridlock around gun violence and to stand up to the NRA," said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violenc.
Administration officials on Sunday provided no timeline on when recommendations would come and played down Trump's previous talk of increase the rifle purchase age. That will be "discussed and examined," an official told reporters.
During a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump mocked commissions in the context of a call for seeking the death penalty for drug dealers.
"Do you think the drug dealers who kill thousands of people during their lifetime, do you think they care who's on a blue-ribbon committee?" he asked.
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During the often free-wheeling conversations, Trump also seemed to voice support for "universal" background checks, which would apply to private gun sales and those at gun shows, instead of just from licensed dealers. He also raised eyebrows by suggesting that law enforcement officials should be able to confiscate guns from those they deem a safety risk even before a court has weighed in.
"Take the guns first, go through due process second," Trump said.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, later walked back both suggestions, saying "Universal means something different to a lot of people." She said the president wanted to expedite the court process, not circumvent it.
As part of the plan, the White House reiterated its support for improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check through the "Fix NICS" bill, which would penalize federal agencies that don't properly report required records and reward states that comply by providing them with federal grant preferences.
The bill was written in response to a shooting last November by a gunman whose domestic violence conviction the Air Force failed to report to the National Criminal Information Center database. It has already passed the House.
The White House is also calling on Congress to pass a second bill that would create a federal grant program to train students, teachers and school officials how to identify signs of potential violence and intervene early. The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on the STOP School Violence Act next week.
Trump has also vowed to ban the use of bump stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons. The Department of Justice has also been moving forward with that effort.