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President Trump on Sunday walked back his support for gun control measures that would increase the age that a person can purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. The reversal came as the Trump administration said Sunday it will seek to arm and train teachers and school staffers with concealed weapons, while making modest changes to NICS—a federal program providing instant criminal background checks for some gun buyers. The proposal does not call for universal background checks. Trump’s reversal comes less than two weeks after he publicly proposed raising the minimum age of firearm purchases.
President Donald Trump: “Think of it. You can buy a handgun. You can buy one, but you have to wait 'til you're 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18. I think it’s something you have to think about.”
Trump’s plan also calls for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to head a commission that will recommend ways to harden schools against mass shootings like last month’s massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 people. The commission was announced less than 24 hours after Trump told a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, “We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees.”
In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott has signed a series of gun measures—breaking from the National Rifle Association in the wake of last month’s massacre in Parkland. The new restrictions will add a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases, will raise the minimum age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 and will ban bump stocks that allow semiautomatic rifles to act like fully automatic machine guns. The Florida law will also fund a program encouraging teachers and school staff to carry handguns. Governor Scott did not use his line-item veto to quash the measure, as Florida’s teachers’ union demanded. This is Governor Rick Scott speaking Friday just after signing the bill.
Gov. Rick Scott: “I’m an NRA member, and I was an NRA member when I became governor. I’m going to be an NRA member when I’m not a governor. I’m sure there’s NRA members that agree with this bill, some that don’t agree with this bill. You know, but the way I think about it: I’m going to do what I think are commonsense solutions. The commonsense things, as a father, as a grandfather, as a governor, is—is we need to have law enforcement in our schools, we need to harden our schools, we need more mental health counseling.”
On Friday, the National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the deal, arguing it violates the Second Amendment.
In Northern California, police say a military veteran opened fire on a veterans’ home in Napa Valley Friday, killing three women before taking his own life following a standoff with police. The three victims—Jennifer Gonzales, Christine Loeber and Jennifer Golick—worked for the Pathway Home nonprofit, which helps military veterans overcome PTSD and transition back into civilian life. The shooter, 36-year-old Albert Wong of Sacramento, was a military veteran and former patient at the center who was kicked out of the program just days before the shooting spree, after he allegedly threatened its employees. Wong was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after serving more than three years’ active duty, including a one-year deployment to Afghanistan. He had a number of military decorations, including an Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge.
President Trump has reiterated his calls for the U.S. to impose the death penalty on drug dealers, praising countries like the Philippines, China and Singapore that apply capital punishment to drug traffickers. Trump made the remarks during a campaign-style rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.
President Donald Trump: “When I was in China—and other places, by the way—I said, 'Mr. President, do you have a drug problem?' 'No, no, no. We do not.' I said, 'Huh, big country, 1.4 billion people, right? Not much of a drug problem.' I said, 'What do you attribute that to?' 'Well, uh, the death penalty.'”
During the rally, Trump also lashed out at potential rivals in the 2020 presidential election, including Oprah Winfrey and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Trump also blasted NBC News political director Chuck Todd as a “sleepy-eyed son of a bitch.” And he mocked California Democratic Congressmember Maxine Waters, saying she has a “very low IQ.” Trump’s rally in Western Pennsylvania came ahead of Tuesday’s special election for an open congressional seat. Republican Rick Saccone is in a tight race with Democrat Conor Lamb for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, which Trump carried by 20 points during the 2016 election.
In Syria, government forces are pressing an all-out assault on the besieged rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. Syrian ground forces advanced over the weekend, effectively cutting the territory into three parts. Human rights groups say the assault has killed more than 1,100 people in the last month. The U.N. estimates some 400,000 civilians remain trapped in Eastern Ghouta and are in desperate need of food, water and medicine. The Syrian Civil Defense rescue group, known as the White Helmets, accused Syria’s government of using chlorine gas and incendiary white phosphorus munitions. Syria’s government denies using chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Turkish troops have massed on the outskirts of the Kurdish-held northern city of Afrin and appear poised for an invasion. Over the weekend, thousands of Afrin’s residents fled the city amid stepped-up airstrikes by Turkish warplanes.
The British government has approved the sale of 48 advanced fighter jets to Saudi Arabia—despite protests by human rights groups who say the warplanes will add to war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The U.S.- and British-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes and naval blockade have devastated Yemen’s health, water and sanitation systems, sparking a massive cholera outbreak and pushing millions of Yemenis to the brink of starvation. Thousands of Yemenis have been killed.
In China, the National People’s Congress voted Sunday to remove presidential term limits from the Chinese constitution, clearing the way for President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely. Only two of the Communist Party’s 3,000 delegates voted against the change, which will also enshrine so-called Xi Jinping Thought as part of China’s constitution. This month, President Trump praised Chinese President Xi for consolidating power, saying, “He’s now president for life. … I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, told members of a French far-right party that they should wear charges of racism and xenophobia as a “badge of honor.” Bannon was speaking in Lille at a convention of the National Front—which is known for its anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies.
Stephen Bannon: “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativist. Wear it as a badge of honor, because every day we get stronger and they get weaker.”
Bannon made the remarks in France on the heels of a trip to Italy, where he lent his support to far-right parties who made significant gains during parliamentary elections earlier this month. On Saturday, thousands of people marched through the streets of Florence to remember a Senegalese migrant and street vendor who was shot to death by an Italian man just one day after the election. The killing came less than a month after a neo-Nazi wounded six migrants in a shooting spree in central Italy. At the Vatican, Pope Francis warned that the politics of fear was leading to anti-immigrant violence in Italy.
Pope Francis: “Our time experiences great fear as it faces the vast dimensions of globalization. And fear often turns against people who are foreign, different, poor, as if they were enemies. There are countries where development plans are made, dictated by the fight against these people.”
In Colombia, voters went to the polls Sunday in the first nationwide election that’s seen members of the former FARC rebel movement run for political office as part of a historic peace agreement ratified last year. The election saw a strong showing by President Álvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center party. FARC fared poorly, winning just 0.4 percent of the vote, but as part of the peace agreement the FARC will see 10 of its members seated in parliament.
In Burma, Amnesty International is warning that the Burmese military is building bases on the sites of former villages where minority Rohingya homes and mosques once stood. Amnesty says the push may be aimed at deterring hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from returning to Burma’s Rakhine State from neighboring Bangladesh, where they fled in 2017 amid a Burmese military campaign of rape, murder and arson that the U.N. has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Amnesty’s report came as the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., said it has revoked a prestigious human rights award to Burmese de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Back in the United States, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled Sunday to explain why schools in her home state of Michigan are faring poorly under the policies she championed. DeVos was speaking with Lesley Stahl on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Lesley Stahl: “Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “I don’t know. Overall, I—I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.”
Lesley Stahl: “The whole state is not doing well.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this—the students are doing well and”—
Lesley Stahl: “No, but your argument that if you take funds away, that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan, where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “I hesitate to talk about all schools, in general, because schools are made up of individual students attending them.”
Lesley Stahl: “The public schools here are doing worse than they did.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.”
Meanwhile, “60 Minutes” is moving forward with plans to air an interview with adult film star Stephanie Clifford—also known as Stormy Daniels—about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006 and '07. Daniels agreed to the interview with host Anderson Cooper despite an arbiter's ruling last week that she’s barred from talking about her relationship with Trump. Just weeks before the 2016 election, Daniels accepted a $130,000 payout from Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in exchange for a nondisclosure agreement. The Wall Street Journal reports the payoff could amount to a violation of federal election law. Daniels has sued to overturn the nondisclosure agreement, calling the deal invalid.
In New York City, about 100 demonstrators flooded an exhibit in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum on Saturday, throwing hundreds of pill bottles into a moat surrounding an exhibit on Egyptian art, in a protest against the opioid crisis. The protest targeted the Sackler family—owners of the company that invented OxyContin. A recent Esquire magazine exposé reveals how the Sackler family downplayed the risks of the drug’s addiction and exploited doctors’ confusion over the drug’s strength. The Sackler family has given a fortune to museums, including the Met.
And in British Columbia, Canada, thousands of people marched in the city of Burnaby on Saturday to protest the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. First Nations and environmental activists say the project will expand highly polluting development in Alberta’s tar sands region, while endangering communities around an expanded export terminal near Vancouver. This is Eriel Deranger, executive director of the group Indigenous Climate Action.
Eriel Deranger: “In Alberta, we have seen tar sands ravage and rip apart the landscapes in the Treaty 8 territory for over 60 years. We have seen it contaminate our river systems, destroy our food sources and really weaken the spirit of our people. This march represents that resurgence, breathing life into the spirit of our people to know that we are not alone, that while we challenge the Kinder Morgan pipeline, we are challenging to respect and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, that have the right to say no, that have the right to decide what happens in our backyards and in our territories. We have the right to health; clean, safe environments.”