Remarks by President Trump in Roundtable Discussion on the Federal Commission on School Safety Report | Beaufort County Now | We're here to discuss concrete steps of our nation that we have to take - we have no choice and we don't want a choice - we're going to take to prevent school shootings and keep our children safe. | Donald J. Trump, Parkland, school shootings, Secretary Betsy DeVos, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, dnlds wht hs

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Remarks by President Trump in Roundtable Discussion on the Federal Commission on School Safety Report

Press Release:

    Roosevelt Room  •  December 18, 2018  •  2:40 P.M. EST

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. We're here to discuss concrete steps of our nation that we have to take - we have no choice and we don't want a choice - we're going to take to prevent school shootings and keep our children safe.

    Following the horrific shooting in Parkland, my administration formed the School Safety Commission. Today, the Commission released its official report, and that's a very important thing. These are some of the people - parents and - incredible parents that I've gotten to know - and some of the people that are most involved with the tragedy of Parkland.
President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (center) listens to the those affected by school violence: Above. (White House photo)     Click image to expand.

    The report includes nearly 100 detailed recommendations based on the input from families; educators; mental health practitioners; law enforcement; and federal, state, and local leaders. And I will say this: Every one of them is knowledgeable.

    I want to thank Secretary Betsy DeVos for leading the Commission, along with the other Commission members - Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Secretary Alex Azar, and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Thank you very much.

    We're also joined by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi - thank you, Pam; Montana Superintendent Elsie Arntzen; Kentucky Sheriff Kevin Byars; and president of the Santa Fe Texas School Board, Rusty Norman. Thank you all very much. Thank you everybody for being here. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.

    Most importantly, we are honored to be joined by Carson Abt, a brave survivor of the Parkland shooting; along with families who have lost their loved ones in this horrible, horrible school shooting - Andy Pollack, Ryan Petty, Max Schachter, Scarlett Lewis, and JT Lewis. Terrific people. Your courage in the face of this horrible event - the grief - inspires us all.

    Last week, I met with Max, Ryan, and many other Parkland families. We are profoundly grateful to all of the families who are working with us to help prevent others from suffering the same terrible heartache and tragedy.

    My administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to address school violence. We enacted two critical reforms into law. The Fix NICS Act, which you know about, which strengthens very strongly the background checks for firearm purchases. And the STOP School Violence Act, which provides grants to schools to improve safety.

    And they've gone a long way - who have also secured historic levels of funding to give schools and police more resources to protect their students. This morning, we also completed the process to issue a new regulation banning bump stocks. And Matt will be talking about that in a minute.

    We've taken important steps, but much work remains to be done, as always. Today, we are reviewing the recommendations put forward by the School Safety Commission. These include fixing mental health laws so that families and law enforcement can get treatment immediately to those who need it; encouraging states to adopt extreme risk protection orders, which give law enforcement and family members more authority to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves and to others; launching a No Notoriety campaign, which would encourage the media not to use the names or, frankly, anything having to do with the shooters. I see it all the time; they make these people famous. And they're not famous; they're opposite. They're horrible, horrible people. I think that's a very important one - No Notoriety campaign.

    Supporting local efforts to create a culture that cherishes life and fosters deep and meaningful human connections, allowing highly trained school personnel to have access to firearms.


    According to the Department of Homeland Security, the average duration of an active shooter incident at a school is under five minutes. All of this horrible carnage takes place in a very short period of time. That is why it's critical to have armed personnel available at a moment's notice. These are people - teachers, in many cases - that are the highest trained that you can get. People that are natural to firearms. People that know how to handle them. People that have great experience and, on top of the experience, have taken courses. And they're right on the site.

    This is critical to the hardening of our schools against attack. Also they love our students. I've seen the teachers. I've seen so many of them, over the last two years especially where something has happened, and they truly love their students. And, by loving their students, they want to fight for their students more than anybody else would.

    But for any strategy to succeed, there must be accountability to all levels of government, and we must ensure communities can respond quickly and decisively to warning signs, stopping tragedy before it strikes. And that's obviously our number-one goal: stopping it before it ever happens.

    I look forward to discussion today. And we're going to have a big discussion. And you can stay around, if you want, for a little while. Some of these folks have incredible things to say. Incredible. And the incredible ideas - we couldn't have had the ideas that they have as parents and as loved ones. Nothing is more important than protecting our nation's children.

    So, with that, I'd like to just ask Betsy to say a few words. And, Matt, you're going to talk about bump stocks.


    THE PRESIDENT: And we'll go around and talk to some of the folks. Please, Betsy.

    SECRETARY DEVOS: Thank you, Mr. President.

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

    SECRETARY DEVOS: After the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, you took swift action. No parent should fear for their child's life when they go to school, and no student or teacher should ever have to worry about their safety at school.

    Sadly, incidents of school violence are too common, and too many families and communities have faced these horrible challenges. But Americans have never shied away from challenges, nor have we cowered when evil manifests itself.

    Mr. President, you showed leadership by promptly convening students, families, and educators to have honest dialogues about school violence.

    And when you asked me to chair the Federal Commission on School Safety, you rightly insisted that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that foster a culture of violence. You noted that we cannot keep our children safe by looking at only one aspect of a much larger problem.

    Today, we present our completed report, and I want to thank my fellow commissioners and their staffs for all of the great work that was done on this report.

    The report addresses a holistic view of school safety, based on the insights, experiences, and expertise of many individuals. Our recommendations can assist states and local communities.

    Ultimately, governors and state legislators should work with school leaders, teachers, parents, and students to address their own unique challenges and develop their own specific solutions.


    How schools and communities consider these recommendations will vary. Their approach should start by fostering a positive climate and a culture of connectedness.

    This report highlights social and emotional learning, and a number of other recommendations that policymakers should explore. But let's remember, local problems need local solutions. Ultimately, the recommendations do not and cannot supplant the incomparable role that families play in the lives of children and in our culture. To the families of Meadow, of Alaina, of Jesse, and of Alex, and of the other families not here today, we hope the actions that come out of this commission's work will spare other families future tragedies and grief.

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Betsy.

    SECRETARY DEVOS: Thank you, Mr. President.

    THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate it. Matt.

    ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER: Sir, under your strong leadership, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more gun crimes this year than ever before. And, in addition, today, we faithfully have followed your leadership by making clear that bump stocks, which turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns, are illegal. We all remember what happened in Las Vegas on October 1st, and I don't have to recount that horrific day, but, you know, the shooter that day used a bump stock to accelerate the carnage that was inflicted.

    The final rule that was signed today, the Department of Justice clarified that bump-stock-type devices are machine guns and are prohibited by federal law. And anyone possessing these bump stock devices have about 90 days to either destroy them or turn them into an ATF field office before this rule becomes final and it's enforced. So, I think that's a big victory for your administration, sir.

    And then briefly on school safety and DOJ's role, we participated in all of the events and all of the field visits. We specifically worked on issues like the extreme risk protection orders - the ERPO that you mentioned. We obviously - we've made improvements to the FBI tip line that I know some of the parents were concerned about coming out of the Parkland shooting.

    We continue to provide crisis and emergency training for law enforcement, and we will continue to do that. And we looked at the issue of age restrictions on firearms, and we just did not have any existing evidence-based research to suggest that would make a difference, but we're going to continue to sponsor and fund research so that we can get an answer to that question.

    THE PRESIDENT: Good. And the bump stocks - so you have to go through a statutory period. And once you go through that period, that's going to be the end of bump stocks.

    ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER: So there's a 90-day grace period that this -


    ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER: - about March 21st is when they will finally become unlawful to possess.

    THE PRESIDENT: Good. Good. And that took a lot of legal work, and good legal work. Thank you very much.

    ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER: You know, and the other thing on the bump stocks, sir, that you should know is we received 186,000 comments as part of our rulemaking. Most of them were positive comments, but we had to sift through all of them and make sure that our rulemaking was done the right way and that we considered all those comments.

    THE PRESIDENT: When you say "positive" - positive in that -

    ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER: Positive - they supported the action that your administration took today.

    THE PRESIDENT: Good. Okay, good. That's very good. Thank you very much, Matt.


    ATTORNEY GENERAL BONDI: President, thank you for caring. You always care so much about our kids and our kids' safety. And that means so much to this country.


    I went to assist in Nevada after that shooting, saw the carnage. Meadow's brother, Hunter, is my intern. And I was with Max since that night it happened. I'll never forget that, Max.

    And to all these great families, who you've listened to and cared so much about, you're saving so many lives. And Secretary and the entire Commission, thank you.

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Good job you do. Great job in Florida.


    THE PRESIDENT: What about you, Max?

    MR. SCHACHTER: I want to thank you, Mr. President. Ever since Alex was murdered, I've been traveling this country to see what schools are doing well and are making our schools safe. And I've come to the conclusion that a lot of schools just don't know how to make them safe.

    Schools are focused on educating our children. And now they're forced with having to be security experts. So after Alex was murdered, I - I have a vision to create a clearinghouse of national school safety best practices. And I want to thank you for putting that in this recommendation. Thank you, Secretary, and all the Secretaries that put this report together.

    Schools need guidance on best practices and what to do first, what to do second. And we don't want schools wasting money on items that are not proven to save children's lives.

    So this report recommended the creation of a clearinghouse - a repository to produce national school safety best practices. This has never been done before and I think this specific recommendation is going to make schools across the country safer, and children.


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