February 26, 2018 / 5:07 PM / 20 days ago

Trump calls for closer attention to warnings after Florida massacre

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said authorities need to do a better job of handling warnings about violent people of the sort that were missed ahead of this month’s shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.

Trump’s comments came as he met with governors at the White House, where Florida Governor Rick Scott said state officials need to take additional steps to improve school security, including adding mental health counselors in all schools.

The Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the second-deadliest shooting at a U.S. public school, stirred the nation’s long-running debate on gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Trump, a Republican who backed gun rights during and since his 2016 presidential campaign, last week suggested that arming teachers could help stop more rampages.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, told Trump that teachers in his state do nor want to carry weapons.

Scott, also a Republican, has said he will work with Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature to raise the minimum legal age to buy guns in the state to 21, from 18, with some exceptions.

Investigators said the assault was carried out by Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at the high school, who legally purchased a semiautomatic AR-15 assault weapon nearly a year ago. Police charged Cruz, who had been kicked out of the school due to disciplinary problems, with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The shooting has rattled long-drawn political lines on gun rights in the United States, where Republican officials have often backed any efforts to tighten gun ownership rules, often out of concern about potential retribution by the powerful National Rifle Association.

Trump has said he plans to limit sales of “bump stocks,” an accessory that can modify a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle to fire at high rates of speed akin to a machine gun. Fully automatic machine guns are largely banned under U.S. law.

The NRA has pushed back against that idea, saying that new restrictions on firearms would impinge on the rights of law-abiding gun owners while having no effect on public safety.

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 U.S. history. Bump stocks have not played a prominent role in other recent U.S. mass shootings.

U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives who was badly wounding in a shooting last summer, questioned the logic of restricting gun purchases after the attack. Instead, he said his focus was on failures by law enforcement, following reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police had received multiple warnings about the alleged shooter.

“All these breakdowns in government show you why so many people, millions of people across the country, want to have the right to defend themselves,” Scalise told Fox News on Monday. “Passing laws that take away rights of law-abiding gun owners, that is something that concerns a lot of us.” (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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