By Jenna Johnson and Mark Berman
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he has signed a memorandum directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to propose regulations to ban “bump stocks” and other devices that turn semiautomatic firearms into “machine guns.”
The device was used by the shooter who opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas in October, killing dozens and immediately prompting calls for lawmakers or the administration to ban such devices through legislation or regulations. At the time, the White House and the National Rifle Association made clear that they were open to the idea, but no action was taken. It was not until a mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week again brought attention to gun-control issues that Trump was pushed to act.
“I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized ... very soon,” the president said during a medal ceremony at the White House on Tuesday afternoon. “The key in all of these efforts ... is that we cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make a difference. We must move past cliches and tired debates and focus on evidence-based solutions and security measures that actually work.”
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, massacre, the level of furious activism on the ground has represented a startling shift from previous community responses to mass shootings. Students who survived the Parkland shooting have organized groups calling for increased gun control, and some have pledged not to return to class until changes are made. Bipartisan action has been elusive in the wake of previous mass shootings, including some of the deadliest rampages in modern U.S. history.
On Tuesday, Trump referred to the shooting last week as an “evil massacre” and said his administration is “working very hard to make sense of these events.”
“We must do more to protect our children,” he said. “We have to do more to protect our children.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in the afternoon that the president is open to discussing the idea of increasing the age at which someone can legally purchase a semiautomatic firearm.
Trump plans to meet Wednesday with students, teachers and parents from Parkland, local school districts and those affected by past school shootings in Columbine, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut. He also will meet with law enforcement officials and local leaders. Trump said the point of these meetings is to “develop concrete steps that we can take to secure our schools, safeguard our students and protect our communities.”