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.


US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2018
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US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

  • The offensive is meant to work in concert with severe economic sanctions that Washington plans to reimpose in the coming months

WASHINGTON: The United States is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, pursuing a strategy aimed at Iranian compliance with stringent US demands.
Following Washington’s pullout from the Iran nuclear accord that stunned Washington’s closest European allies, Pompeo on May 21 unveiled the “new strategy” to force Iran’s submission to a dozen demands.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” Pompeo said in a speech to the Iranian diaspora in California, referring to sanctions leveled in January against Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations.
Pompeo also confirmed that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4, or face American sanctions.
“There’s more to come,” Pompeo said of the US financial penalties.
US President Donald Trump on May 8 decided to restore all the sanctions that had been lifted as part of a multi-national agreement, signed on to by former president Barack Obama’s administration in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.
European allies maintain their support for that hard-won deal and are trying all means to save it.
“Regime leaders — especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani — must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk.
He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.
Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters in the Islamic republic.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said.
Pompeo announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, with the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media.
This will ensure that “ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them,” he said.
Regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Iranian republic.
“Our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally,” he said.
Under Washington’s tougher line after withdrawal from the international nuclear accord, Pompeo has said the US would lift its new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed such threats, saying the rest of the world no longer accepts Washington making decisions on their behalf.