Roosevelt Room

2:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  We’re here to discuss concrete steps of our nation that we have to take — we have no choice and we don’t want a choice — we’re going to take to prevent school shootings and keep our children safe.

Following the horrific shooting in Parkland, my administration formed the School Safety Commission.  Today, the Commission released its official report, and that’s a very important thing.  These are some of the people — parents and — incredible parents that I’ve gotten to know — and some of the people that are most involved with the tragedy of Parkland.

The report includes nearly 100 detailed recommendations based on the input from families; educators; mental health practitioners; law enforcement; and federal, state, and local leaders.  And I will say this: Every one of them is knowledgeable.

I want to thank Secretary Betsy DeVos for leading the Commission, along with the other Commission members — Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Secretary Alex Azar, and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.  Thank you very much.

We’re also joined by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi — thank you, Pam; Montana Superintendent Elsie Arntzen; Kentucky Sheriff Kevin Byars; and president of the Santa Fe Texas School Board, Rusty Norman.  Thank you all very much.  Thank you everybody for being here.  Appreciate it.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Most importantly, we are honored to be joined by Carson Abt, a brave survivor of the Parkland shooting; along with families who have lost their loved ones in this horrible, horrible school shooting — Andy Pollack, Ryan Petty, Max Schachter, Scarlett Lewis, and JT Lewis.  Terrific people.  Your courage in the face of this horrible event — the grief — inspires us all.

Last week, I met with Max, Ryan, and many other Parkland families.  We are profoundly grateful to all of the families who are working with us to help prevent others from suffering the same terrible heartache and tragedy.

My administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to address school violence.  We enacted two critical reforms into law.  The Fix NICS Act, which you know about, which strengthens very strongly the background checks for firearm purchases.  And the STOP School Violence Act, which provides grants to schools to improve safety.

And they’ve gone a long way — who have also secured historic levels of funding to give schools and police more resources to protect their students.  This morning, we also completed the process to issue a new regulation banning bump stocks.  And Matt will be talking about that in a minute.

We’ve taken important steps, but much work remains to be done, as always.  Today, we are reviewing the recommendations put forward by the School Safety Commission.  These include fixing mental health laws so that families and law enforcement can get treatment immediately to those who need it; encouraging states to adopt extreme risk protection orders, which give law enforcement and family members more authority to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves and to others; launching a No Notoriety campaign, which would encourage the media not to use the names or, frankly, anything having to do with the shooters.  I see it all the time; they make these people famous.  And they’re not famous; they’re opposite.  They’re horrible, horrible people.  I think that’s a very important one — No Notoriety campaign.

Supporting local efforts to create a culture that cherishes life and fosters deep and meaningful human connections, allowing highly trained school personnel to have access to firearms.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the average duration of an active shooter incident at a school is under five minutes.  All of this horrible carnage takes place in a very short period of time.  That is why it’s critical to have armed personnel available at a moment’s notice.  These are people — teachers, in many cases — that are the highest trained that you can get.  People that are natural to firearms.  People that know how to handle them.  People that have great experience and, on top of the experience, have taken courses.  And they’re right on the site.

This is critical to the hardening of our schools against attack.  Also they love our students.  I’ve seen the teachers.  I’ve seen so many of them, over the last two years especially where something has happened, and they truly love their students.  And, by loving their students, they want to fight for their students more than anybody else would.

But for any strategy to succeed, there must be accountability to all levels of government, and we must ensure communities can respond quickly and decisively to warning signs, stopping tragedy before it strikes.  And that’s obviously our number-one goal: stopping it before it ever happens.

I look forward to discussion today.  And we’re going to have a big discussion.  And you can stay around, if you want, for a little while.  Some of these folks have incredible things to say.  Incredible.  And the incredible ideas — we couldn’t have had the ideas that they have as parents and as loved ones.  Nothing is more important than protecting our nation’s children.

So, with that, I’d like to just ask Betsy to say a few words.  And, Matt, you’re going to talk about bump stocks.

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER:  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we’ll go around and talk to some of the folks.  Please, Betsy.

SECRETARY DEVOS:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

SECRETARY DEVOS:  After the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, you took swift action.  No parent should fear for their child’s life when they go to school, and no student or teacher should ever have to worry about their safety at school.

Sadly, incidents of school violence are too common, and too many families and communities have faced these horrible challenges.  But Americans have never shied away from challenges, nor have we cowered when evil manifests itself.

Mr. President, you showed leadership by promptly convening students, families, and educators to have honest dialogues about school violence.

And when you asked me to chair the Federal Commission on School Safety, you rightly insisted that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that foster a culture of violence.  You noted that we cannot keep our children safe by looking at only one aspect of a much larger problem.

Today, we present our completed report, and I want to thank my fellow commissioners and their staffs for all of the great work that was done on this report.

The report addresses a holistic view of school safety, based on the insights, experiences, and expertise of many individuals.  Our recommendations can assist states and local communities.

Ultimately, governors and state legislators should work with school leaders, teachers, parents, and students to address their own unique challenges and develop their own specific solutions.

How schools and communities consider these recommendations will vary.  Their approach should start by fostering a positive climate and a culture of connectedness.

This report highlights social and emotional learning, and a number of other recommendations that policymakers should explore.  But let’s remember, local problems need local solutions.  Ultimately, the recommendations do not and cannot supplant the incomparable role that families play in the lives of children and in our culture.  To the families of Meadow, of Alaina, of Jesse, and of Alex, and of the other families not here today, we hope the actions that come out of this commission’s work will spare other families future tragedies and grief.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Betsy.

SECRETARY DEVOS:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate it.  Matt.

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER:  Sir, under your strong leadership, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more gun crimes this year than ever before.  And, in addition, today, we faithfully have followed your leadership by making clear that bump stocks, which turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns, are illegal.  We all remember what happened in Las Vegas on October 1st, and I don’t have to recount that horrific day, but, you know, the shooter that day used a bump stock to accelerate the carnage that was inflicted.

The final rule that was signed today, the Department of Justice clarified that bump-stock-type devices are machine guns and are prohibited by federal law.  And anyone possessing these bump stock devices have about 90 days to either destroy them or turn them into an ATF field office before this rule becomes final and it’s enforced.  So, I think that’s a big victory for your administration, sir.

And then briefly on school safety and DOJ’s role, we participated in all of the events and all of the field visits.  We specifically worked on issues like the extreme risk protection orders — the ERPO that you mentioned.  We obviously — we’ve made improvements to the FBI tip line that I know some of the parents were concerned about coming out of the Parkland shooting.

We continue to provide crisis and emergency training for law enforcement, and we will continue to do that.  And we looked at the issue of age restrictions on firearms, and we just did not have any existing evidence-based research to suggest that would make a difference, but we’re going to continue to sponsor and fund research so that we can get an answer to that question.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  And the bump stocks — so you have to go through a statutory period.  And once you go through that period, that’s going to be the end of bump stocks.

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER:  So there’s a 90-day grace period that this —

THE PRESIDENT:  Right

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER:  — about March 21st is when they will finally become unlawful to possess.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Good.  And that took a lot of legal work, and good legal work.  Thank you very much.

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER:  You know, and the other thing on the bump stocks, sir, that you should know is we received 186,000 comments as part of our rulemaking.  Most of them were positive comments, but we had to sift through all of them and make sure that our rulemaking was done the right way and that we considered all those comments.

THE PRESIDENT:  When you say “positive” — positive in that —

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER:  Positive — they supported the action that your administration took today.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Okay, good.  That’s very good.  Thank you very much, Matt.

Pam.

ATTORNEY GENERAL BONDI:  President, thank you for caring.  You always care so much about our kids and our kids’ safety.  And that means so much to this country.

I went to assist in Nevada after that shooting, saw the carnage.  Meadow’s brother, Hunter, is my intern.  And I was with Max since that night it happened.  I’ll never forget that, Max.

And to all these great families, who you’ve listened to and cared so much about, you’re saving so many lives.  And Secretary and the entire Commission, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.  Good job you do.  Great job in Florida.

ATTORNEY GENERAL BONDI:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  What about you, Max?

MR. SCHACHTER:  I want to thank you, Mr. President.  Ever since Alex was murdered, I’ve been traveling this country to see what schools are doing well and are making our schools safe.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of schools just don’t know how to make them safe.

Schools are focused on educating our children.  And now they’re forced with having to be security experts.  So after Alex was murdered, I — I have a vision to create a clearinghouse of national school safety best practices.  And I want to thank you for putting that in this recommendation.  Thank you, Secretary, and all the Secretaries that put this report together.

Schools need guidance on best practices and what to do first, what to do second.  And we don’t want schools wasting money on items that are not proven to save children’s lives.

So this report recommended the creation of a clearinghouse — a repository to produce national school safety best practices.  This has never been done before and I think this specific recommendation is going to make schools across the country safer, and children.

So thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Great job you’ve done, too.  Appreciate it.

Carson, please.

MS. ABT:  Hi.  I think, touching upon what Max was saying, there are great recommendations in this but now it’s up to the states and to schools to actually put these recommendations to action.  We’ve — on the federal level, we’ve gone as far as you can regarding this, and now it’s up to the states and the schools.  And there are a wide variety of recommendations — and while all of them are helpful, only one may be needed to change a school or to save someone’s life.

And, as a student in Douglas now, I look at this school and I see what’s been done already.  Specifically, one of the things I’ve noticed is we have a lot more drills and protocols about what to do in — not just active shooter drills, but in any emergency drills.  And that’s something where it’s not just necessary for a school, but it’s necessary for life.  Because this isn’t just happening at schools; this is happening in movie theaters and concerts —

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s true.

MS. ABT:  And if you know what to do a young age, it’s going to unfortunately be instinct by the time you’re older.  And while it’s unfortunate, it will help keep you safe.

So I thank you, Secretary, Mr. President, and all the other Secretaries for creating really a large report of recommendations because it hits a wide variety for schools to choose from.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks, Carson.  I appreciate it.

Andy.

MR. POLLACK:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Right after my daughter was murdered, I came to the listening session here at the White House and I addressed the country.  And I said, “We all need to come together and focus on school safety.  It’s something we all could agree on.”  And after that happened, there was a lot of people in the country that just wanted a certain agenda, okay?  And I get — and you all know what that agenda is.

But not — not this administration and the President here.  They wanted to look into the facts of what happened that led up to Parkland.  And the President listened.  And he put together a commission that was going to look into all the facts that led up to February 14th to make it so it doesn’t happen again, inform the Commission, and this is the most comprehensive report done after a school shooting ever by an administration, that’s going to affect the quality of life for all students and teachers throughout this country.  Because I know it affected me personally, what happened in Parkland.  And these families know what happened in Parkland.

And in this report that the President helped put together with his policymakers — I know there’s people that we spoke with — and his administrators, and his Secretaries, they all put this report together, and it means so much to all of us.  And this President and his administration listened.  And he did this, and it means a lot to all of the families.  And we want to thank all the administration for getting this done and making it safer for all of the kids in this country.

And that’s what it’s about: Looking at the past — looking at what happened, and looking to prevent it from happening it again.  Okay?  That’s what you do.  You look at the facts — what it led up to February 14th, and you look to change things.  And that’s what this administration did, and I want to thank you so much for doing that.  So thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much Andy.

Scarlett?

MS. LEWIS:  Yeah, well this is Jesse, President Trump.  And Jesse actually stood up to the shooter when he came into his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook.  And his brave action saved nine of his classmates’ lives before losing his own.  And I wanted to talk about that courage today, especially because I think that — I want to thank you for your courage; Betsy, for your courage.  You really listened.

When I opened the report, the number-one thing in the report was proactive prevention and social emotional learning.  That’s what I’ve been focusing on in the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement since day one, cultivating safety from the inside out of a child.  External safety measures are so incredibly important, but equally as important is teaching kids how to manage their emotions, giving them skills and tools for resilience, teaching them how to have healthy connections — connection is love — that’s cultivating safety from the inside out.

You’ve got that in this report.  This is the first administration to do that, and I want to thank you for your courage.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.

MS. LEWIS:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Secretary?

SECRETARY NIELSEN:  Well, sir, I just want to thank you for creating the Commission, and thank you for your leadership.  I want to thank Secretary DeVos for all her hard work and that of her team, and my other commissioners.

But I want to thank everyone around this table.  Thank you for standing up.  Thank you for giving a voice to the victims and survivors and to our communities.

We listened.  We hope that we learned from you.  This is the start.  We were just discussing this will not sit on a bookshelf.  We intend to implement it under the President’s guidance and leadership.

But I want to thank you all, because it’s understanding the communities, what you need, what the risk is, how you would like to address it that got us to this today.  So thank you very much for all of your involvement.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thanks, Kirstjen.

Please, Ryan.

MR. PETTY:  Mr. President, thank you for having us here today.  Thank you for your leadership on this issue.  I’d like to thank the commissioners, also, for their hard work.  I was flying down here when this was released, and trying to devour it on the plane as quickly as I could.

As Andy said, this is the most comprehensive report I’ve ever seen, and I applaud the comprehensive nature but also the depth that goes into each of the recommendations, and the thoughtfulness in putting this together.  There is so much to like here.

My hope is that rather than fighting over the things we don’t like or we think are missing, that as a nation we’ll come together and focus on the things we do agree on.  Because 99 percent of this, I think, we can agree on and we can move forward.  And if we’ll just agree on it, I think we can take steps towards solving this.

So, Mr. President, thank you for doing that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.  Thank you.

There’s been a lot of love doing this.  You know, it’s very interesting, when you talk about the report and people are loving it in terms of — hopefully, it’s going to be very effective, it’s going to be put to good use.

But it came out of a lot of great and, really, brilliant people, and people that love what they’re doing because they understand where it’s all coming from and where it’s going, and what you want to accomplish, much more so than just haphazardly putting a group of experts in charge.  So I just want to thank everybody so much.  Thank you very much.

Alex?

SECRETARY AZAR:  Yes, Mr. President.  And I’d like to especially thank Secretary DeVos for her leadership of the Commission and the efforts here, and really echo what Scarlett had to say about the mental health issues.  I think that was one of the key learnings of the Commission, was just what we’re facing in terms of depression, anxiety, and self-harm thoughts of our kids.

Major depression has increased by two-thirds among youth, from 2010 to 2017.  One in eight children will have a major depressive episode in any given year.  And mental health disorders that are not properly treated can lead to self-harm and harm for others.

And so that’s one of the key outgrowths of this report, are four key areas for focus and recommendation at the federal, state, and local level.

The first is that we’ve got to make sure our mental health services and connections to treatment are available at our schools.  We’ve got to get to our kids where they feel safe.

The second is that we’ve got to have opportunities for more effective screening for mental health, and we’ve got to get kids on psychosocial and psychotropic medications to treat them.

And third, we have to have better understanding of a lot of our medical privacy laws and education privacy laws, and fix them where needed to ensure that when there’s a cry for help, that cry can be heard by other family members and by authorities.

And then, finally, we’ve got to make sure that we have available and effective treatment options for our kids who are suffering from mental health disorders.

So, Mr. President, we’ve got a very bold agenda here and action plan, but I think these are the right kinds of issues to solve them, to really tackle the problem, rather than just flashy things that won’t actually deliver results.

THE PRESIDENT:  So, thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I appreciate it.  You have done a fantastic job.  We appreciate it very much.

Rusty?

MR. NORMAN:  Mr. President, we definitely want to thank you, from Santa Fe, and your team — all the work that went into this.  The community of Santa Fe, Santa Fe ISD, is still very much in recovery mode from the mass tragedy that we had in May.  Oddly enough, I think your Commission had a meeting the day before we had our tragedy in Santa Fe.  And we were given some briefings and did have an opportunity to visit with some of the commissioners and some of the folks on the committee shortly thereafter.

We have undertaken many things in Santa Fe that we knew to do: hardening of schools and a few changes like that.  We responded to what the community and what the parents wanted; what the students wanted to feel safer.  But we really didn’t know what we were looking at long term.  So we were very much looking forward to this information to see, number one, what we might have missed in a best practice just in the early stages, but more importantly, what we can do to impact these students — not just in Santa Fe, and not just in Texas — but all across country.

Because as I told you back in June, we have an epidemic of violence that has got to be stopped.  And when you have high school students tell you that it’s just the world we live in, that has to change.  And I think that this will be a great step to start that way.

Previous administration have tried to do things, but I have great faith that this one is actually going to go the distance to make things really happen.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Rusty.  I appreciate it.  Thank you.

JT?

MR. LEWIS:  Sure.  Thank you for having us, by the way, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, JT.

MR. LEWIS:  I just want to say, since I lost my brother at Sandy Hook — and this is my mom, by the way —

THE PRESIDENT:  I know.

MR. LEWIS:  — it’s been 19 years since Columbine, 11 years since Virginia Tech, and 6 years, on Friday, since Sandy Hook.  And we’ve met with governors; we’ve met with senators.  We met with the previous administration — the President and the Secretary of Education.  And everyone wanted to focus on a certain issue, as Andy said.  And I won’t say it, but they didn’t want to focus on school safety, which is the most important thing, and what this report really tackles.

So I want to thank you.  I want to thank everyone who had input on this report.  It’s amazing stuff.  And it’s interesting, as I learn going back to school in Newtown — Sandy Hook — the schools become infinitely safer the day after the shooting.  They implement all of this stuff, and you feel completely safe in this school that just had a shooting yesterday.

So this needs to get into the schools before something like that happens.  So I want to applaud everyone here for taking the effort to do this.  Thank you, Secretary DeVos.  Thank you everyone.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Please.  Sheriff?

SHERIFF BYARS:  Well, Mr. President, I want to thank you for listening.  As someone has already mentioned, in previous administrations, they kind of wanted to bury their heads in the sand.  You’ve listened.  I appreciate that so much.

Secretary DeVos, I appreciate all the work you’ve done.  Everything in here is spot on, from a law enforcement aspect.

Our shooting happened on January 23rd, but it wasn’t the first in our area — 20 years prior to that, at Heath.  And this type of thing was still done 20 years ago, and no progress.  I think there will be progress this time.  And I want to thank you for all of the work that you’ve put in on it.  Ms. DeVos, thank you so much for everything that you’ve done.  And I think it’s going to be a whole lot better now.  I think our schools will be a whole lot safer across this nation, if the state and local level takes what’s in here, uses it, and gets in the legislature, and passes some things that will help these recommendations stay in our schools.  Because our children are our most precious resource.  That’s our future.

And I agree with Mr. Norman, this has got to stop; we’ve got to change.  And this is a great step in that direction.  And I want to thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Sheriff.

Please.

SUPERINTENDENT ARNTZEN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you very much for your leadership within this.

From a rural state, with a rural voice at the table here, thank you for not having it be top down.  This is organic.  This is coming from the bottom up.  And it is not a mandate.  All of the things that are here are going to be put into play in any fashion that can happen in Montana or across any of our other very rural states.

Teachers — I taught for 23 years.  How exciting this is to put in the hand of teachers — teacher leaders — to protect our most treasured: our students.

I thank you for your leadership.  And thank you very much, Secretary DeVos.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.

So this is available to everybody.  I think you probably have a copy; if not, we’ll get you one.  And it will be at your disposal.  And, more importantly, it will be sent all over the country to different schools.  And I think we have a lot of tremendous ideas here put up by tremendous people.

So thank you all for being here.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, can I ask about the shutdown?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll see what happens.

Q    Well, you say that, but what about —

THE PRESIDENT:  Too early to say, sorry.  Thank you.

Thank you everybody.

Q    Are you still willing to shut it down for $5 billion?

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, everybody.

We need border security.  Thank you very much everybody.

END

3:07 P.M. EST