Students and parents affected by mass shootings have met with Donald Trump at the White House during an emotional ‘listening session’ where many pleaded for meaningful action to curb gun violence.
During a powerful and heart-breaking session, survivors and family members stood up and called on US politicians to come up with solutions to gun violence.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said: “We’re here because my daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week and she was taken from us. Shot nine times on the third floor. We as a country failed our children. This shouldn’t happen.
“I’m very angry that this happened, because it keeps happening,” Pollack added, while speaking directly to the camera.
“How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me. I’m not going to sleep until it gets fixed.”
Trump vowed to take steps to improve background checks for gun buyers, but he also suggested arming teachers and other school officials with firearms to prevent school shootings.
He proposed that arming 20 per cent of teaching staff at schools may be effective at quickly ending attacks.
“If he had a firearm ... he would have shot and that would have ended,” Trump said about Stoneman Douglas coach Aaron Feis, who was killed.
Trump also suggested ending gun-free school zones, opening more hospitals for the mentally ill and toughening background checks.
“We’re going to go very strong into age — age of purchase, and we’re also going to go very strong into the mental health aspect of what’s going on,” he said.
Photograghers also captured Trump’s notes during the session, which included the line “I hear you”.
The meeting included six students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and educators were killed by a gunman with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle in the second-deadliest shooting at a US public school.
Some of the participants at the session made the case for stricter gun control laws.
“How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon?,” Stoneman Douglas student Sam Zeif asked of the ability to purchase an AR-15.
“How did we not stop this after Columbine? After Sandy Hook? I’m sitting with a mother who lost her son. It’s still happening,” he said, tearfully gesturing to Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
Hockley said: “After Sandy Hook, they said we wouldn’t let this happen again, yet it has continued to happen for five years. How many more deaths can we take as a country?”
It was one of many recent media appearances by groups of Parkland students affected by last week’s shooting
Many have made strong calls for Congress to act on gun control legislation, and students and adults plan to participate in the March for Our Lives next month, a protest they’re organising in Washington, DC, and several sister cities.
Several of the students seated around Trump thanked him for his leadership on mass shooting issues but made few remarks about gun access, marking a sharp tone shift from the Parkland students behind next month’s march.
One of the students, Cameron Kasky, tweeted after the listening session that he, student organizer Emma Gonzalez and the other Parkland students calling for gun control were “not invited” to the White House on Wednesday.