In an attempt to assuage claims that he isn’t serious about the work needed to keep American children safe in schools, President Donald Trump asked survivors of last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and the 1999 Columbine, Colorado school shooting to attend a White House listening session Wednesday.
Though the guests did most of the talking, it was easy to get a read on the Trump administration's take: Trump brought a list of talking points that included a note reminding him to actually listen to gun violence survivors.
A photo by Associated Press photographer Carolyn Kaster clearly reveals the notes clutched in Trump’s hands during the session, which appear to have been written on White House stationary in Sharpie. The first point asks, “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” The fifth, and last, point reminds Trump to say, “I hear you.”
There was a lot for the president to take in as friends and family members of slain students implored Trump to ensure children’s safety going forward. At least one parent, Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was killed in last Wednesday’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, was openly angry with Trump.
“We’re here because my daughter has no voice — she was murdered last week, shot nine times,” Pollack said. “How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here, with this administration and me.”
He added, “It should have been one school shooting, and we should have fixed it, and I’m pissed, because my daughter, I’m not going to see her again.”
“I turned 18 the day after [the Parkland shooting], woke up to the news that my best friend was gone,” Sam Zeif, a student at Stoneman Douglas whose best friend was killed last Wednesday, told Trump. “And I don’t understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war, an AR. I was reading today that a person 20 years old walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes, with an expired ID. How is it that easy to buy that type of weapon? How have we not stopped this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook?”
During the meeting, Trump also suggested that teachers be armed with concealed firearms, and asked for people to raise their hands if they supported the idea. The room reportedly gave the idea a mixed reception.
In a speech Wednesday evening, Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie also struck back at Trump’s suggestion.
"We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers,” said Runcie, whose district includes Stoneman Douglas. “You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket. This country pays a lot of lip service to the importance of the teaching profession, but we never put our money behind it."