The Latest: Pence says school safety ‘top national priority’

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The Latest: Pence says school safety ‘top national priority’
The Latest: Pence says school safety ‘top national priority’

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on President Donald Trump, guns and school violence (all times local):

11:06 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says the Trump administration will make school safety “our top national priority” after last week’s attack on a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Pence recounted President Donald Trump’s calls for strengthening the federal background check system for purchasing firearms and for regulating bump-stocks like those used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre.

Calling school shootings “evil in our time,” Pence called on those in positions of authority “to find a way to come together with American solutions.”

It was a markedly different tone than that deployed on stage minutes earlier by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, who delivered an unbowed defense of gun ownership and lashed out at Democrats – saying they are using the tragedy for “political gain.”

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10:15 a.m.

Leaders of the National Rifle Association are accusing supporters of gun control of exploiting the mass school shooting in Florida to promote an anti-gun agenda.

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He says Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy are eager to blame the NRA and are calling “for even more government control.”

He says opponents of gun rights want to “sweep under the carpet” the failure of school safety, families “and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI” to prevent the shootings.

LaPierre and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch are addressing conservatives at CPAC.

Loesch says many in the media “love mass shootings,” adding, “crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

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9:47 a.m.

President Donald Trump is offering a full-throated backing of the National Rifle Association.

Trump says on Twitter Thursday: “What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

The president, a strong supporter of gun rights, is publicly weighing some gun control measures in the wake of the school shooting in Florida last week that left 17 dead.

He has expressed interest in strengthening background checks, banning “bump stock” style devices and raising the minimum age to 21 for possessing more weapons than at present.

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9:08 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with state and local officials from around the country to discuss school safety.

The White House says attendees at a session Thursday include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, both Republicans. The Democratic Mayor of Parkland, Florida, Christine Hunschofsky, will also participate. She is the mayor of the town where 17 people were killed in a school shooting last week.

Trump will also hear from local police, health and education officials. He is seeking to show action in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

On Wednesday, Trump heard from students and parents impacted by the Parkland shooting, as well as past mass shootings.

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8:23 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he wants to see action on a series of gun control measures, saying “Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!”

Trump was speaking on Twitter Thursday. He says: “I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks!”

He did not immediately offer more details.

Trump appeared to be endorsing a plan to raise the minimum age to buy assault-type weapons.

He has previously expressed interest in efforts to strengthen the federal background check system. It was not clear if he would back closing loopholes that permit loose private sales on the internet and at gun shows.

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7:49 a.m.

President Donald Trump is continuing to talk about the possibility of arming teachers, saying he means concealed weapons for “gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best.”

Trump spoke on Twitter Thursday morning. He tweeted: “I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC.” Trump says that giving concealed weapons to highly trained teachers would allow them to, in his words, “immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”

Trump added: “Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.” He says: “ATTACKS WOULD END!”

At a White House listening session on gun violence Wednesday, Trump raised the idea of arming some teachers with concealed weapons.

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12:11 a.m.

President Donald Trump is pledging to be “very strong on background checks.” And he suggests he’d support allowing some teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons to be ready for intruders.

Trump listened intently Wednesday to the raw emotion as students and parents appealed to the president to set politics aside and protect America’s school children from the scourge of gun violence.

The president had invited the teen survivors of school violence and parents of murdered children in a show of his resolve against gun violence in the wake of last week’s shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and in past years at schools in Connecticut and Colorado. The latest episode has prompted a renewed and growing call for stronger gun control.

Trump later tweeted that he would “always remember” the meeting. “So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!”

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at National Harbor, Md., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, waves as he arrives to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at National Harbor, Md., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Presidente Donald Trump mira a la estudiante Julia Cordover, de la secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas de Parkland, Florida, en la Casa Blanca en Washington, 21 de febrero de 2018. Trump insistió el jueves 22 de febrero de 2018 en la necesidad de armar a los maestros en las escuelas, aunque aclaró que eso no significaba dar armas a todos. (AP Foto/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump hosts a listening session with high school students, teachers, and others in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Andrew Pollack, father of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Meadow Jade Pollack, joined by his sons, speaks during a listening session with President Donald Trump, high school students, teachers and others in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump holds notes during a listening session with high school students and teachers in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Trump heard the stories of students and parents affected by school shootings, following last week’s deadly shooting in Florida. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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