Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting surviving students Jonathan Blank (left) and Julia Cordover (center) listen to President Donald Trump.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
A seething father who lost his 18-year-old daughter in the Florida school shooting stood inside the White House Wednesday and directly confronted the president of the United States: “How many schools, how many children have to get shot?” Andrew Pollack said. “It stops here with this administration and me.”
The riveting scene was one of many that were captured live on national television as family members of those killed in recent school mass shootings pressured President Trump to take some sort of action after the latest tragedy: 17 people killed last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.
They were gathered for what the White House billed as a “listening session,” and listen Trump did, sometime stoically in the face of emotional pleas for action.
“I'm only 15 years old, I'm a sophomore. Nineteen years ago the first school shooting at Columbine happened, and I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace,” Justin Gruber, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, said. “There needs to be significant change in this country because this needs to never happen again, and people need to feel that when you go to school they can be safe.”
Students and parents from the Parkland, Florida, high school addressed Trump during the hour-long meeting, sometimes tearfully, sometimes angrily, over the need for action to stop another massacre.
“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it, and I’m pissed because my daughter — I’m not going to see again,” said Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the Florida massacre.
Some survivors of the shooting also described their experience in the Feb. 14 shooting.
“As a kid, nothing that horrible should ever happen to you,” Johnathan Cordover, who was in one of the classrooms targeted by the gunman, said. “You can't even think about it. It doesn't even seem real, still.”
Facing increased pressure to take some sort of action after the Feb. 14 shooting, Trump at one point flatly asked the gathering for solutions.
“It's not going to be talk like it has been in the past,” Trump said at the beginning of the meeting. “It's been going on for too long.”
The meeting also included students, teachers, and parents from DC-area schools, as well as parents whose children were among the 28 staff and students killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary in Vermont.
Carolyn Kaster / AP
Gun control, assault weapon bans, increased security at schools and tougher background checks were just some of the topics that were brought up during the White House meeting, which was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos.
Many of those in attendance brought up tougher gun control legislation, including age requirements on certain weapons and the sale of AR-15s, the weapon used by the Florida the gunman.
“I don't understand why I can still go into a store and buy a weapon of war,” Samuel Zief, a Parkland student whose friend was killed in the shooting, told the president.
Trump appeared to be leaning toward tougher background checks in the areas of mental health and age, as well the possibility of arming teachers or other staff members at schools.
“How did we not stop this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook?” he said.
“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly,” Trump added. “I think a lot of people are going to be opposed to it. I think a lot of people are going to like it.”
Nicole Hockley, who co-founded Sandy Hook Promise after her 6-year-old was killed in the Vermont attack, said she was opposed to arming teachers in classrooms and said resources should instead be focused on training students and teachers to look for the warning signs that someone might commit such an act.
“There are solutions, and this administration has the ability to put them in place,” she said. “After Sandy Hook, they said it wouldn't happen again, and yet it continued for five years.”
Trump, who had touted the quick endorsement of the National Rife Association as candidate, has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with regulations to ban bump stocks, which were used during the Las Vegas mass shooting to make the gunman's rifles fire like automatic weapons.
“This is a long term situation that we have to solve,” Trump said. “And we'll solve it together.”