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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, March 03, 2018 1:00 am

Trump tough to pin down on gun control

Associated Press

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Deputies told to secure scene

PARKLAND, Fla. – A sheriff's office captain told deputies to form a perimeter instead of rushing into the Florida high school where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting, according to documents obtained by the Miami Herald.

The newspaper reported that it had obtained a partial Broward Sheriff's Office dispatch log, which showed that Capt. Jan Jordan gave the order for deputies to establish a perimeter. Sheriff Scott Israel has said his office's training and nationwide active-shooter procedure call for armed law enforcement officers to confront shooters immediately rather than secure a scene.

An earlier report on the call logs published by Fox News showed that the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would have been over by the time Jordan gave her order.

Georgia teacher had guns seized

ATLANTA – A Georgia teacher accused of firing a handgun in his classroom had three rifles taken away after setting the family car ablaze at his home two years ago, according to a sheriff's report obtained Friday by The Associated Press. But authorities responsible for protecting his workplace – Dalton High School – say they didn't learn about the disturbing episode until this week.

Deputies in Dade County, where social studies teacher Jesse Randal Davidson lives, took him to a hospital for a mental evaluation and seized the rifles for safe-keeping after he torched the Mitsubishi Outlander on Aug. 13, 2016. This sheriff's report and two others from Dalton Police in Whitfield County show Davidson has been hospitalized at least three times in recent years as people worried about his state of mind.

WASHINGTON – In his quest to tackle gun violence, President Donald Trump has ricocheted between calling for tougher laws and declaring his fealty to the Second Amendment's right to bear arms, leaving a trail of befuddled lawmakers and advocates in his wake.

One thing he still has not done: clearly outline his legislative priorities.

Washington's week closed Friday without further explanation from the president, the White House indicating that for now, at least, he is backing an incremental proposal on background checks and a bill that would provide new federal dollars to stem school violence.

Just what Trump would like to see in the “beautiful” and “comprehensive” bill he called for earlier in the week remained unclear.

That comment came at a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers Wednesday, which was quickly followed by a private session with the National Rifle Association on Thursday. “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!” Trump tweeted Thursday night.

He had outlined some of his preferences via Twitter earlier Thursday, saying that both good and bad ideas had come out of the bipartisan meeting. He said: “Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!”

Disagreement continues among legislators over the appropriate response after the Florida school shooting that left 17 dead. Amid the confusion, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shelved the gun debate for now.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who is a leading advocate of tougher gun laws, predicted on Twitter: “The White House is going to bob and weave on guns. Accept it.”

Still, he added: “Trump's instinct on this issue is not wrong – if his party doesn't get behind background checks soon, they're cooked in 2018 and 2020.” And he argued that Trump's “willingness to buck the gun lobby in public, rule out the NRA agenda and talk up background checks, has changed this debate nationally.”

Setting it straight

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that Trump supports a limited proposal that would boost participation in the existing federal background check program, as well as a bill that would provide new federal grant funding to stem school violence.

Sanders said Trump had not signed on to a more sweeping background check bill that would require the review of firearm purchases online and at gun shows.

And she sought to clarify Trump's comments earlier in the week, saying that while Trump “conceptually” supports higher age requirements to purchase certain weapons, “he also knows there's not a lot of broad support for that.”

The president also wants to use an executive order to bar the use of bump-stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons.

Key meetings

After Republican anxiety about Trump's comments seeming to express openness to tougher gun controls, NRA executive director Chris Cox was positive about their Thursday night meeting. He tweeted that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don't want gun control.”

As part of Trump's efforts to consider various responses to gun violence, next week he plans to host members of the video game industry. He has repeatedly referenced the violence in movies and video games during conversations about guns and school safety since the Florida shooting.

Nicole Hockley, who lost a child at Sandy Hook, has attended two White House meetings with Trump and remained optimistic.

“I do feel he is committed to finding a way forward and he is committed to putting a plan together,” she said. “I don't know what the content will be.”