Florida school massacre survivors push lawmakers for assault gun ban

Some of the hundreds of West Boca High School students arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after they walked there in honor of the 17 students shot dead last week on Feb. 20, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Florida school massacre survivors push lawmakers for assault gun ban

TALLAHASSEE, Florida/WASHINGTON: Dozens of teenaged survivors of the second deadliest public school shooting in US history marched on Florida’s capital on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to ban sales of assault rifles of the sort used to kill 17 students and educators last week.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the latest school targeted by a gunman using a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, heated up the nation’s long-running debate about gun rights and public safety.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirts and carrying signs with the slogan “#Neveragain,” survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting met with lawmakers in Tallahassee, to ask for stricter controls on gun sales.
Investigators said the assault was carried out by 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, who purchased an AR-15 nearly a year ago. Police have charged Cruz, who had been kicked out of Douglas for disciplinary problems, with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
“We want to see some common sense gun laws so this will never happen again,” said Rachel Padnis, a 16-year-old sophomore from the school near Fort Lauderdale.
She and classmates said they were dismayed but undeterred by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature’s Tuesday rebuff of a bid to bring up a bill to block sales of assault rifles.
President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of gun rights, was due to meet later Wednesday with parents, students and teachers who have been victims of gun violence, including those affected by the Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida.
The White House meeting comes a day after Trump said his administration would take steps to ban bump stocks, an accessory that enables a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute. A spokeswoman said the administration was open to the idea of setting national age limits on sales of assault rifles.
Florida state Sen. Bill Galvan, slated to be the upper chamber’s next president, has called for a bill to raise the legal age for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21, the same as it is for handguns.
At the Florida capital in Tallahassee, dozens of students packed into a meeting room and peppered Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican, with questions about why individuals should have continued access to assault rifles.
Negron declined to say whether he would support any specific gun control measures, saying, “That’s an issue we’re going to look at as we work to develop legislation.”
Trump talks
US President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of gun rights, was scheduled to host a “listening session” with high school students and teachers at the White House on Wednesday.
Trump’s support for any tightening of gun laws would mark a change for a Republican who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association gun lobby during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The NRA opposes an outright ban on bump stocks but has said it would be open to restrictions on the devices.
Under pressure after Parkland, the deadliest-ever shooting at a US high school, Trump on Tuesday directed the Justice Department to quickly complete a proposed rule that would treat “bump stocks” as machine guns, which could effectively outlaw them in the US.
Last October, a retired real estate investor and high-stakes gambler used multiple assault rifles equipped with bump stocks to kill 58 people at a Las Vegas outdoor concert, the deadliest attack by a single gunman in US history. Bump stocks have not played a prominent role in other recent US mass shootings.
Later this week, Trump will meet with local and state officials, and plans to talk with governors about the issue.
Trump generally favors a Senate bill on background checks, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday.
Calls for national student walk-outs and marches in the coming months have gained steam on social media, including the “March for Our Lives” on March 24 in Washington, spearheaded by Douglas students.
Scattered school walkouts in support of the Florida students were planned around the US on Wednesday, according to officials and local media.
The NRA has agreed to participate in a televised town hall on guns to be broadcast by CNN later today, the news network said. NRA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gun violence on public school and college campuses has become so commonplace in the US in the last several years that administrators regularly stage drills to train students and staff in the event of a mass shooting.


Trump likely to meet Putin in ‘not-too-distant-future’

Updated 48 min 14 sec ago
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Trump likely to meet Putin in ‘not-too-distant-future’

  • The US National Security Adviser will travel to Moscow next week to explore the idea of a meeting
  • Speculation has been rife in Russian and Western media on the highly anticipated meeting

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is likely to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin “in the not-too-distant future,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a US television interview, after Trump mooted a possible summit.
The White House announced on Thursday that National Security Adviser John Bolton will travel to Moscow next week to explore the idea of a meeting.
“I know Ambassador Bolton’s planning to travel to Moscow on Sunday or Monday. He’ll be meeting with his counterpart, and I think it’s likely that president Trump will be meeting with his counterpart in the not-too-distant future following that meeting,” Pompeo told MSNBC, according to a transcript released Saturday by the State Department.
“I don’t know what the president’s schedule is going to be,” Pompeo said in the Friday interview.
Speculation has been rife in Russian and Western media on the highly anticipated meeting, which they first discussed in March.
Such talks would be scrutinized because of the continuing probe by a US special counsel into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.
Bolton’s visit was announced almost two weeks after Trump said that Russia should be re-admitted to the G7 group of industralized democracies, from which it was suspended for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Trump is due to participate on July 11-12 in the NATO summit in Brussels before heading on to Britain to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II.
Earlier this month, Putin said he was ready to meet his US counterpart as soon as Washington gave its approval, adding that Vienna could be a possible venue for such a summit.
Ties between Washington and Moscow have been strained by the Russia probe and Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
The last, brief meeting between Putin and Trump took place in November 2017 in Vietnam during an APEC leaders’ summit.