- President Donald Trump hosted a listening session at the White House on Wednesday, one week after a mass shooting in Florida left 17 people dead.
- Andrew Pollack, the father of one of the victims, gave an impassioned speech, telling Trump he was “pissed” that little has been done to protect students.
- Other mass shooting survivors and parents of victims spoke during the event about potential solutions.
- The extraordinary, televised listening session went on for more than an hour.
- Trump ended the session by suggesting that teachers and other school staff should be allowed licenses to carry concealed weapons in schools.
A man whose daughter died in last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school gave an enraged speech during n extraordinary listening session at the White House on Wednesday, telling President Donald Trump that “we as a country failed our children.”
Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was shot to death by alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz, said he wouldn’t rest until students are protected from future shootings.
“My daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week, shot nine times on the third floor,” Pollack said. “This shouldn’t happen. We go to the airport, I can’t get on the plane with a bottle of water, but we leave some animal to walk into a classroom and shoot our children.”
The White House hosted several Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived the shooting, along with their parents, parents of students who died in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, and other teachers and officials. The televised session went on for more than an hour.
Pollack railed against the federal government for tightening airport security in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but doing little to protect schools from potential shooters.
“One school shooting and we all should have fixed it. And I’m pissed! Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again. She’s not here,” he said, raising his voice. “We protect airports, we protect concerts, stadiums, embassies – the Department of Education that I walked in today that has a security guard in the elevator. How do you think that makes me feel?”
Pollack added that he didn’t believe the immediate issue was about gun laws, but school safety. He said he wanted to “fix the schools” and then let the parties “battle it out” over gun control.
“I’m never going to see my kid again. I want you all to know that,” he said. “Never, ever will I see my kid. I want that to sink in – it’s eternity. My beautiful daughter I’m never going to see again. And it’s simple. We can fix it.”
‘Let’s never let this happen again’
Others who attended the session voiced support for stricter gun-control measures. Cary Gruber, whose son Justin survived the shooting and texted him throughout the massacre said that gun laws shouldn’t be a political issue.
“If he’s not old enough to go buy a drink, buy a beer, he should not be able to buy a gun at 18 years old,” he said, referring to Cruz, who legally purchased his AR-15 rifle. “We gotta do something about this. We cannot have our children die, this is just heartbreaking. Please.”
One of the students who survived the shooting, Samuel Zeif, pleaded with Trump to enact stricter gun laws, citing Australia as an example of a country that reacted to a 1996 mass shooting by passing legislation restricting ownership of certain types of firearms.
“We need to do something, and that’s why we’re here,” Zeif said. “So let’s be strong for the fallen, who don’t have a voice to speak anymore, and let’s never let this happen again. Please, please.”
Trump voiced support for several ideas to prevent future school shootings, including training teachers to use guns, providing more treatment to people with mental illnesses, and strengthening background checks.
At least one of the session attendees voiced support for arming teachers. One of Meadow Pollack’s brothers told Trump that last Wednesday “could have been a very different situation” if teachers carried guns and were trained to shoot.
“Law enforcement takes seven, eight minutes to get there” in an emergency, he said. “If a teacher or a security guard has a concealed licence and a firearm on their waist they’re able to easily stop the situation. Or the bad guy – I’ll put it that way – would not even go near the school knowing that someone could fight back against them.”
Trump said at the start of the listening session he intended to focus on strengthening the federal background-check system for firearms purchases. He also announced on Tuesday he had directed the Justice Department to craft regulations banning “bump stock” devices, which were used by the Las Vegas shooter last year to accelerate his fire.
The session came on the same day that thousands of students in Florida and Maryland staged school walkouts to protest gun violence and rally for stricter gun-control measures.
Here are some of the most compelling quotes from the session:
- Ariana Klein, Florida shooting survivor: “Everybody right now is so stuck on what they believe that they’re not listening to what other people believe. We need to listen to the other points of views … The solution is not going to be a singular thing, it’s going to be multifaceted.”
- Samuel Zaif, Florida shooting survivor: “These are not weapons of defence, they are weapons of war. I still can’t fathom that I, myself, am able to purchase one.”
- Jonathan Blank, Florida shooting survivor: “Everything seems fake. I don’t even know what’s going on. It’s crazy.”
- Justin Gruber, Florida shooting survivor: I’m only 15 years old. I’m a sophomore. Nineteen years ago, the first school shooting at Columbine High School happened. I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace.”
- Julie Cordover, Parkland’s student body president: “I appreciate you looking at bump stocks yesterday. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, I think we can all agree on that.”
- Christine Hunschofsky, Mayor of Parkland: “What is the positive impact of having legislation that bans assault rifles? It could save a life. And that needs to be a priority in any case … We have a right to free speech, but if free speech in any way endangers someone, it’s restricted.”
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