Donald Trump’s “Listening Session” Disaster

Last Wednesday, one of the deadliest school shootings in the nation’s history took place in Broward County’s Parkland High School, after an expelled, 18-year-old student legally obtained an AR-15, shot and killed 17 students and staff. Students, staff, parents, and gun regulation advocates seized the FL State Capitol the following Saturday with signs messaging #NeverAgain. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, addressed a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, calling “B.S.” on lawmakers’ “thoughts and prayers” in response to the carnage. Monday marked the 18th school shooting since January.

A contrary message, advocating the protection of Second Amendment rights, was pushed by Fox News and right-wing bloggers. Some followed in lockstep with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ advocacy of arming school property with firearms. Conspiracy theories, pushed by bots, flooded Twitter. Horrid accusations were floated, insinuating the FL school shooting was “staged”, similar to the vile allegations spewed by Info Wars’ Alex Jones after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, CT.

In an attempt to lead the nation and appear amicable in resolving gun violence, President Trump hosted a Listening Session today in the White House. Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, with Kellyanne Conway seated among guests, President Trump sat, red-faced, awkward, with arms crossed over his chest at times, exposing a cheat sheet of five simple questions he asked from the group.

Andrew Pollack, the father of a slain student from Wednesdays’ shooting, was in attendance, supported by his two teenaged sons. He spoke with great emotion and grief over the loss of his daughter, advocating the arming of teachers and school staff, while instilling praise on the President for a job well done. The President appeared to agree with Mr. Pollack by nodding, referring to the teenaged Florida gunman as “sick”, “an animal”, and “a coward”.

President Trump continued, “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” he said, stating that schools could arm up to 20% of their teachers to stop “maniacs” who may try and attack them. “This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone,” Trump said. “Gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us.’”

The microphone was passed to an official from D.C. Public Schools, who shared his success in preventing gun violence with the use of X-Ray machines at main entrances, stating students aren’t even allowed to bring cell phones into school, as they are an interference to the learning structure they’ve determined to facilitate.

Student Samuel Zeif, a Florida shooting survivor, spoke through tears, “I don’t understand. 
I turned 18 the day after . . . woke up to the news that my best friend was gone and I don’t understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war.” Seated next to Zeif was Nicole Hockley, the mother of a Sandy Hook Elementary victim, who asked the President to take action using legislation available to him to prevent further gun violence: “Consider your own children. You don’t want to be me. No parent does.”

Gina Bradbury is a freelance writer with 20 years experience working in both the federal government and private sector. She is active in grassroots advocacy for progressive policy.

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