President Donald Trump hosted students and families affected by school shootings at the White House for an emotional listening session on what needed to be done to protect schools.
“We’re going to do something about this horrible situation that is going on … I want to listen, and after I listen, we can get things done,” Trump said to the group.
The president was joined by Education Secretary Betsy Devos and Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence said that Trump and the entire administration was determined to “make sure that this is the last time that this ever happens”
Several Florida students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the time of the shooting last week attended the meeting together with their parents. Seventeen people were shot and killed in the attack.
“We’re going to pick out the strongest ideas … and we’re going to get them done. It’s not going to be talk like in the past,” Trump said, before asking a pastor present to open the meeting with a prayer.
Father Andrew Pollack and his three sons came to the meeting, expressing his rage in response to his daughter Meadow’s death.
“How many schools, how many children have to get shot?” he said. ”It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. And I’m pissed. Because my daughter I’m not going to see again.”
Pollack was targeted online after photographers captured him in a Trump t-shirt after the shooting looking for his daughter.
The students were polite in their discussions with Trump, fighting tears as they spoke to the president about their experiences.
Julia Cordover, the senior class president at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who has joined the activist group to March for our Lives on Washington, D.C. She thanked Trump for moving to ban “bump stocks” calling it a “step in the right direction.”
Some of the students even praised Trump’s leadership.
“You’ve done a great job, and I like the direction that you’re going in,” Florida High School student Jonathan Blank said.
“Thank you for leading this country, you’re a great leader and I appreciate the direction the country is going in,” student Ariana Klein said.
Cary Gruber, the father of a student attending the school directly asked Trump to support raising the legal age to buy a rifle.
“If he’s not old enough to buy a beer he should not be able to buy a gun,” Gruber said.
Frederick Abt, one father of a Florida student proposed the idea of volunteer concealed carry for trained teachers or people at the school.
“If you can’t stop it from happening, and with hundreds of millions of guns out there, I don’t know if it will ever be fully stopped, but the challenge becomes once it starts, to end it as quickly as possible,” he said.
After introducing several of the guests and hearing their opening remarks, Trump opened the meeting for discussion.
Trump supported the idea of allowing teachers to have concealed carry permits to bring firearms to school to stop mass shootings early.
He praised slain coach Aaron Feis for defending students but suggested that if he was armed he would have been able to stop the shooter.
“If he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run, he would have shot and that would have been the end of it,” Trump said.
“A gun-free zone to a maniac is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us,'” he added.
Mark Barden, whose son was killed in Sandy Hook, opposed the idea of armed teachers, citing his wife who was a teacher.
“Nobody wants a shootout in a school,” Barden said.
One of the student’s, Samuel Zief, called for gun control laws that banned “weapons of war” like AR-15 rifles, citing the recent bans passed in Maryland.
“They have proven that we don’t have to lose our Second Amendment,” he said.
Trump thanked everyone in the room for participating in the meeting, promising them results.
“Thank you for your ideas. Thank you for your thoughts. Thank you for pouring out your hearts because the world is watching,” he said. “And we will come up with the solution. God bless you all.”